Metro Weekly

Is a “religious freedom” order next on Trump’s to-do list?

President's recent actions against LGBTQ community are reigniting speculation over possible executive order

https://www.c-span.org/video/?417745-1/donald-trump-campaigns-greeley-colorado

Donald Trump campaign stop in Greeley, Colorado, 10/31/2016 — Image via C-SPAN

The Trump administration’s recent decisions to prohibit transgender service members from serving openly, and to file an amicus brief arguing that LGBTQ people can enjoy no protections from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act have equality advocates back on their heels.

Despite a campaign promise by the president that he would be an “ally” to the LGBTQ community, Trump and members of his administration have been under a steady barrage of criticism from pro-equality advocates since taking office in January. Among the actions that have earned the administration flak are the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to exclude members of the community from federal surveys and the decision to withdraw guidance asking schools to treat transgender students according to their gender identity.

Due to these actions, many advocates are wondering when — and what — his next anti-LGBTQ action will be.

According to Tony Perkins, the president of the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, that next step will be a series of additional executive orders that would give people leeway to cite religious objections as justification for discriminating against, or denying goods or services to, LGBTQ Americans.

The prospect of an executive order that allows for anti-LGBTQ-related “religious exemptions” has been bandied about since February, when Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State, an FRC fellow, and a domestic advisor to Trump’s transition team promised that such an order would be coming soon. Several Republican members of Congress also urged Trump to issue such an order that would give opponents of LGBTQ rights significant leeway to discriminate without fear of reprisal from the government.

However, that proposal never came to fruition — in part, conservatives believe, because of intervention by the president’s daughter Ivanka.

Speaking on his Washington Watch radio show on Wednesday, Perkins indicated that social conservatives would be heartened by news set to come out next week regarding a follow-up to an executive order the president issued in May.

That executive order, which was largely symbolic, makes it easier for churches to participate in the political sphere by allowing religious leaders to endorse political candidates without fear of losing their tax-exempt status.

“The next phase of that is going to be coming about and I think it is going to be very instructive,” Perkins said of the coming executive order. “We are going to see government agencies basically put on notice that they have to respect religious freedom. And that is not just the ability to believe, it is the free exercise of religion.”

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

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