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08 October 2017, 12:48 | Colleen Roy
Left Loses its Mind Over Jeff Sessions Memo That Brazenly Restates Existing Law
US Department of Justice (WASHINGTON) - Attorney General Jeff Sessions consulted Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy group that champions conservative Christian causes, ahead of issuing controversial guidance to government agencies and departments on Friday about how to interpret federal religious liberty protections.
Also on Friday, Health and Human Services allowed employers with religious objections to opt out of the birth control coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act, and on Thursday Sessions issued a guidance declaring that Title XII does not include protections for transgender people, reversing policies put in place by the Obama administration.
RFRA does not permit the federal government to second-guess the reasonableness of a sincerely held religious belief.
The policy says the mere claim that someone's religious freedom was violated is enough to override many anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, women and others.
The guidance includes the assurance that it "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". "It is countenancing exercises of faith in a way that will harm other individuals".
Among other thing, the guidance adopts certain aspects of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA)-a key legislative priority of the Religious Right- as administration policy. The government's compelling interest in enforcing these laws should mean the businesses lose their arguments - but the Department of Justice guidance suggests that the interest in ending discrimination against LGBT people isn't actually all that important.
The new order was drafted after consultation with a broad spectrum of religious and civil rights groups, the Justice Departmentsaid.
Elsewhere, the memo asserts that religious groups "generally may not be required to alter their religious character to participate in a government program". "This license to discriminate is a stark reminder that states must do all they can to protect LGBTQ people by passing comprehensive nondiscrimination laws".
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". Every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith.
It remains to be seen if legal organizations will file lawsuits over the guidance for compromising the rights of LGBT people and others.
The guidance also contends that religious protections to Title VII discrimination law extend to "discrimination on the basis of religious observance or practices as well as belief".
Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation, said in a statement the religious freedom guidance is a "license to discriminate" and 'an attack on the values of freedom and fairness that make this nation great'. Politicoreports that the ACLU and California attorney general Xavier Becerra will sue to block the rules from going into effect, and you can expect their ultimate fate to be tied up in the court system for the foreseeable future.
Additionally, in 2015 while Mike Pence was governor, in passed its own version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, despite outcry from opponents who argued the bill could be used to legally discriminate against LGBTI people.
Rachel Tiven, executive director of Lambda Legal, said in a statement her organization will ensure that religious freedom guidance doesn't allow anti-LGBT discrimination. In a move about as #onbrand as his penchant for racism, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III rolled that shit right the fuck back to the time when men were men, women were women, and Sessions refused to believe the LGBTQ community was discriminated against.
The memo makes clear the Justice Department's support of that opinion in noting that the primary religious freedom law - the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 - protects the rights not only of people to worship as they choose but also of corporations, companies and private firms.
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