Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for the Trump administration, has issued a memo setting forth twenty principles of religious liberty that the government must abide by. This document addresses nearly all of the current religious liberty controversies and rules in favor of accommodating religious beliefs.
In practice, this document means that the Christian baker could refuse to participate in a same-sex wedding, churches could advocate political positions from the pulpit, businesses could opt out of providing abortion and contraceptive insurance, religious organizations could limit their hiring to those who agree with the religion, and the government could not refuse contracts or benefits on the basis of religion.
The twenty principles include summaries of existing federal law, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993), as well as interpretations and applications that are to guide government agencies.
Read the document here. Some highlights:
“The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.”
“Except in the narrowest of circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law. To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government action, including employment, contracting and programming.”
“Our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people,” Sessions said. “It has protected both the freedom to worship and the freedom not to believe. Every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith. The protections for this right, enshrined in our Constitution and laws, serve to declare and protect this important part of our heritage.”
Furthermore, the document says that religious freedom applies “not just to individuals, but also to organizations, associations, and at least some for-profit corporations.”
Some of the memo’s provisions do not have the force of law, as such, and are subject to legal challenge, but as official interpretations, government agencies–including the IRS –are obliged to follow them.
For more details, Jeff Sessions Just Issued New Guidance On Protecting “Religious Liberty”. (Notice the quotation marks.) Predictably, liberal groups are condemning the principles as allowing discrimination against LGBTs and as being anti-woman.
This places the Trump Administration squarely in favor of religious rights, coming down on the side of Christian conservatives on every one of the issues under contention.
The document is by no means as radical as it is being portrayed on the left. The philosophical and legal controversy has to do with which is the most fundamental right, to which the other rights must defer, religious liberty or non-discrimination? This document states that religious liberty is the most fundamental right. The left insists that the most fundamental right is non-discrimination.