DOJ lays out Trump admin's guidelines for religious liberties protections

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At the instruction of President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released a memo to all government departments and agencies that provides guidance as to how federal laws pertaining to religious liberty protections should be interpreted.

The new DOJ memo is "an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump's pledge to his evangelical and other religious supporters", the AP reports, saying it "effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held". 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". The memo comes a day after Sessions rescinded a policy protecting transgender people from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

A background memo accompanying the new guidance insists the move "does not authorize anyone to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity in violation of federal law or change existing federal and state protections".

Legal organizations likely will file lawsuits over the guidance for compromising the rights of LGBT people and others. They are an open invitation to discrimination against women, members of the LGBT population, and others, all in the name of "religious freedom".

But the impact of the new stance became clear Friday when the administration said it would allow more employers to cite religious objections to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women uncovered by company health care plans. "The guidance that the Trump administration issued today helps protect that First Amendment freedom". "A lot of municipalities already have policies prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people", Hoover said.

The Department of Justice today issued religious-liberty guidelines for all federal agencies, and anyone who values equality for all and the separation of church and state should be deeply disturbed by the message the guidelines send.

"Our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people".

The 20-point guidance specifically says that the government can not make the disavowal of a religious view a condition of an organization or group receiving a grant or contract from the federal government and that "the freedom of religion extends to persons and organizations".

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The Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU stated: "it is countenancing discrimination".

"All Americans should have the freedom to peacefully live and work consistent with their faith without fear of government punishment", said Michael Farris, the president of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Basically, Sessions has declared that religious organizations can hire or fire based on religious beliefs, and that the government is infringing on someone's religious liberty by "banning an aspect of their practice or by forcing them to take an action that contradicts their faith".

"A law that seeks to compel a private person's speech or expression contrary to his or her religious beliefs implicates both the freedoms of speech and free exercise", which Sessions wrote in the appendix, bolsters the argument of the baker who doesn't want to make a cake for a gay man or woman's birthday. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review the Phillips case.

The guidance is significant and establishes solid protections for religious freedom at the federal level, Professor Robert Destro of the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law told CNA. Its bold language highlights the crucial role of religious freedom in American life.

- Reversing a policy recognizing that transgender people are protected from employment discrimination.

To put it simply: Religion is being used as an excuse for discrimination.

The guidance also reiterates that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers covered by the regulation from discriminating based on an individual's religious belief, observance or practice, "unless the employer can not reasonably accommodate such observance or practice without undue hardship".