Metro Weekly

Former Trump transition team member: “Religious freedom” order coming soon

FRC's Ken Blackwell claims Trump administration will push order allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people

Ken Blackwell – Photo: Gage Skidmore.

A former domestic policy adviser to the Trump transition team claims the White House is preparing to issue a “religious freedom” order that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people, similar to one leaked to the press a few weeks ago.

According to The Huffington Post‘s Michelangelo Signorile, Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State and senior fellow at the conservative Family Research Council, said in an interview on his radio show that the controversial “religious freedom” order is in the process of being redrafted and will eventually be signed by President Trump.

If similar in scope to a draft order that was leaked to the press earlier this month, it would allow individuals and businesses that adhere to specific religious or moral beliefs regarding same-sex marriage, homosexuality, transgenderism, or extramarital sex to refuse services or goods to LGBTQ people (and others who don’t conform to expected sexual mores) in social services, education, or healthcare.

The order would also permit these individuals or businesses to fire or refuse to hire LGBTQ employees, prevent them from obtaining spousal or family benefits, and even refuse to provide insurance coverage for certain treatments or prescriptions. And it would allow them to continue to receive special tax breaks, grants or government contracts, even if they were found guilty of discrimination.

Upon its release, the language of the draft executive order was swiftly denounced by almost every major LGBTQ organization, with many accusing Trump of reneging on his campaign promise from last year that he would be a friend and ally to the LGBTQ community. But the Trump administration soon pushed back, saying they had no inclination to sign such an order “at this time.”

Many conservatives had ridiculed the LGBT Left and the mainstream media for spreading “fake news” after Trump did not sign the order.

However, during his presidential campaign, Trump had also made promises to social conservatives that he would issue orders that would protect their religious freedom.

Blackwell, who has previously said he believes homosexuality or same-sex attraction is something that can be changed, is supportive of any order that would allow people with sincerely or deeply-held religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBTQ people. 

“I think small business owners who hold a religious belief that believes that traditional marriage is between one man and one woman should not have their religious liberty trampled upon,” Blackwell told Signorile. “I would imagine that that will be, strongly and clearly, the anchor concept [of the order].”

According to Signorile, Blackwell had also hinted that the original draft order may have been perceived as too vulnerable to a legal challenge. Ken Klukowski, the former director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, who had structured the leaked draft, is reportedly involved in the redrafting efforts.

While Klukowski declined to comment on the specifics of any executive order, he did say that Trump is sympathetic to social conservatives and is aware of “unprecedented hostility against people of devout faiths in recent years.”

“I’m confident,” Klukowsi told Signorile, “that the president is showing — much to the shock of many establishment people who said, ‘There’s no way this’ll happen’ — that he keeps his promises, even when they’re things that an establishment player would never do. And I’m confident that he’s going to keep his promise when it comes to protection of religious liberty as well.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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