Sessions issues religious freedom guidelines which undermine LGBTI rights

Attorney General Jeff SessionsSource PAUL J. RICHARDS  Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff SessionsSource PAUL J. RICHARDS Getty Images

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. She explains different agencies will be effectively run religious freedom tests on their actions. Principle 11 ensures that RFRA extends to businesses as well as individuals, consistent with the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling. Further, the guidance says RFRA doesn't permit the federal government to second-guess a religious belief and asserts the strict scrutiny standard under the law is "exceptionally demanding". According to the EEOC's statistics, the agency received 1,768 charges in 2016 that alleged sex discrimination related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity/transgender status.

"Groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who dedicate their lives to the indigent elderly, can finally expect the restitution of their conscience-rights in court", Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy advisor with The Catholic Association, stated on Friday.

Sessions' guidance is a follow-up to an executive order President Trump issued in May regarding "religious freedom".

With the HHS announcement, the government now "admits the prior version of the mandate broke the law", Rienzi said, referring to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. "And it is another step toward fulfilling President Trump's promise to protect a host of Christian colleges, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and others from having to choose between violating their consciences and paying crippling fines to the IRS", said Michael Farris, president of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). These included: allocating an additional 40 prosecutors to focus on violent crime; an increase in law enforcement hiring grants; funding for local gang investigations; expanded training and technical assistance to local and state partners; and centers for applying new technology to gun crime.

Sessions said in a statement his action - which consists of a memo to administrative agencies, and another memo to Justice Department attorneys - would enhance the bedrock principle in the United States of religious freedom.

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"Today the Trump-Pence administration launched an all-out assault on LGBTQ people, women, and other minority communities by unleashing a sweeping license to discriminate", HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. The Trump administration pitches its rules weakening the birth control coverage mandate as policies that give voice to a purportedly "silenced" group. The principle allowing religious employers to hire only those whose conduct is consistent with their beliefs, for example, might allow a religious school to fire a teacher who had a child out of wedlock, or a man who Wednesday another man, said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the ACLU. "Nothing could be more un-American and unholy that using religion to justify harm and discrimination to others".

The Trump administration has issued a directive giving the go-ahead for religious businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.

Under the new policy, a claim of violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns about civil rights for LGBTI people.

When news dropped that the May executive order was coming, it was initially thought that it would be the same order that leaked in February.

It adds that the government will take this position in pending and future matters, which could have far-reaching implications across the federal government and may result in the Justice Department fighting against transgender workers in court. 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.

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