Published: Sun, October 08, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Jeff Sessions Allows Employers to Discriminate Against LGBTQ People & Women

Religious leaders have long complained that the provision restricts their free speech.

In essence, it says that religious rights trump civil rights. "Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law".

"Our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people", Sessions said in an October 6 statement.

The federal government directive was issued today by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had been tasked by Trump to head a "review" of religious liberty protections, after pressure from anti-LGBT lobbying groups.

Finally, the document released by Sessions said that religious organizations must have equal footing in applying for federal aid or grant programs - they may not be denied participation in these programs when the money is going toward activities that are not explicitly religious in nature. The Department's position is contrary to the current guidance from the EEOC, which has stated definitively that it interprets, and will enforce accordingly, Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination as encompassing employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Government may not target religious individuals or entities through discriminatory enforcement of neutral, generally applicable laws.

Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with the government.

The guidance, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump's pledge to his evangelical supporters that he would protect religious liberties, effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held. If federal agencies develop policies that permit discrimination, Taylor says that Lambda Legal and other groups will file lawsuit challenging those changes. Principle 2 states, "The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or not to act in accordance with one's religious beliefs", and that reference to not acting is the exact argument that has been used in countless cases where businesses and organizations have refused to serve LGBTQ people due to their religious beliefs. Seventeen years ago, the federal appellate court in Boston concluded that discrimination against a transgender person could violate law as a form of sex discrimination. The guidance addresses a number of issues, but one message rings clearly throughout: Sessions wants to empower people to ignore laws that religiously offend them, even if it hurts third parties. 'This is a freedom that has been a fundamental part of our society since the beginning of our nation'. Trump himself hasn't generally expressed the animus towards LGBT people that he's shown for Mexicans, Muslims, and women, and sometimes quite the opposite-promising, for instance, to protect the community after a gunman killed 49 people in a Florida nightclub during his election campaign.

It's the latest move by the Trump administration as it enacts its tough-on-crime agenda and a cornerstone of Sessions' promised crackdown on violence. "I look forward to working with the U.S. Attorney's office to reinvigorate Project Safe Neighborhood, cracking down on violent offenders and removing them from Montana communities". The U.S. Supreme Court will likely have to resolve the issue in the future, but may issue some relevant guidance this term in the Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. case (involving issues of a school district's obligations to a transgender student). It can be used for an organization refusing to offer birth control to their employees.

A federal district court also allowed a Christian funeral home in MI to fire a transgender employee for RFRA reasons in a 2016 ruling.

Sessions's letter states that "the Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals".

Many other states have passed similar religious freedom bills.

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