Civil liberties groups decry Sessions' guidance on religious freedom


On Thursday, the Justice Department announced it would be adding 40 prosecutors to roughly 20 USA district attorney's offices around the country. Politico reports 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.

The despicable new guidelines will allow taxpayer funded federal agencies, government employees, and government contractors to legally discriminate against anyone as long as they cite a honest religious belief as a justification for doing so.

For several leading LGBT advocates, the new guidance was an alarming effort to undermine sexual orientation discrimination protections, under the guise of affirming religious liberty, that could have far-reaching implications.

"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.

"President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to undoing the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and restoring true religious freedom", Tony Perkins, president of one such group, the Family Research Council, said in a statement after the Sessions memo was issued.

Today's guidance also confirms that government can not interfere with the autonomy of religious organizations. The idea that the federal civil rights law protects people only from discrimination on the basis of biological sex is flatly contradicted by U.S Supreme Court rulings. Sessions told the nation's federal prosecutors in a Thursday memo that they would be evaluated regularly based on their commitment to Project Safe Neighborhoods, which also emphasizes partnerships among local law enforcement and community groups.

A sweeping new statement by the Justice Department calls religious freedom a "fundamental right of paramount importance", placing the Trump administration squarely on the side of religious conservatives in America's culture wars. "We're filing this lawsuit because the federal government can not authorize discrimination against women in the name of religion or otherwise".

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He added: "It's unconscionable that the Trump-Pence administration also today encouraged employers to exert control over the essential health care decisions of their employees".

Religious employers are entitled to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers' religious precepts.

Regarding its application to federal contracts, the guidance could influence cases where religious charities are in danger of losing federal contracts due to their employment practices or their religious mission.

The right to free exercise of one's faith is good and important and valuable, sure, but in this context, the interpretation of that right has serious consequences for other rights, too.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws gender discrimination against job-seekers, was extended to include trans folks during the Obama administration.

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. "A license to discriminate goes against our core American values and I fear that the guidance the Justice Department issued today is not created to help agencies comply with the law, but rather to give them greater leeway to condone discrimination against LGBTQ people, women and others". The Justice Department also recently sided with a Colorado baker in a case pending before SCOTUS this term in which the baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple as he claims it was against his religious beliefs.