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Religious Tolerance logo


Part 2

More About the Draft Executive
Order to allow religious-based

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This topic is continued here from the previous essay.

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Webmaster's comment: [bias alert]:

On the matter of "human life," the statement in the executive order included in the previous essay that life begins at conception is controversial. However, strictly speaking, it is an actual fact:

According to the current scientific definition of "life," an organism that is alive must be meet seven requirements: It must be composed of cells, and able to:

"maintain homeostasis, undergo metabolism, grow, adapt to the environment, respond to stimuli, and reproduce."

The precursors to conception -- one spermatozoon and one ovum -- are not considered alive because they are missing one requirement: neither can reproduce themselves. That is, one spermatozoon cannot split and become two spermatozoa. An ovum cannot become two ova. But, for a while, a recently fertilized ovum -- called a zygote -- can split and become twin embryos. Thus a zygote, the product of conception, is considered to be alive. If it contains human DNA then it is, by definition, a form of human life.

However, since the author of the draft order refers to a zygote meriting "protection" then the wording seems to imply that a zygote is not just a human life, like an ordinary skin cell or hair follicle with the same DNA. He also considers it a human person with the right to live, to develop into a newborn, and to not be aborted. Many other pro-life commentators also use the term "human life" and "human person" interchangeably.

No consensus exists about when, during gestation, a human life becomes a human person. Many pro-lifers and this draft executive order imply that it happens sometime during the hours-long process of conception. Some pro-choicers suggest that when the developing fetal brain's higher functions first become active at about 22 weeks gestation, then the fetus first becomes sentient, aware, to some degree, of its environment, and becomes a human person. Traditional Jewish belief states that human life becomes a fully human person during childbirth. Some aboriginal groups say that it happens after birth when the newborn is given a name in a group naming ritual.

There are many other belief systems in circulation. Two examples are when the embryo's heart starts beating or when the woman experiences "quickening" (a.k.a. flutters) when she feels the fetus moving for the first time.

Most of the pro-life/pro-choice conflict about abortion access revolves about this lack of consensus about when human life becomes a human person.

End webmaster's comment.

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Reactions to the draft Executive Order:

  • Marty Lederman, is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on church-state separation and religious freedom matters. He said.

    " This executive order would appear to require [government] agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws -- without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise. ..."

    "Moreover, the exemptions would raise serious First Amendment questions, as well, because they would go far beyond what the Supreme Court has identified as the limits of permissive religious accommodations. ... [It would be] astonishing if the Office of Legal Counsel certifies the legality of this blunderbuss order." 2

  • Ira Lupu is a professor emeritus at the George Washington University Law School. He said that the executive order:

    "... is very sweeping. It raises a big question about whether the Constitution or the [federal] RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] authorizes the president to grant religious freedom in such a broad way." 2

Lupu noted that the draft order privileges a certain set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that are held by most conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians. He believes that this goes beyond:

"... “what RFRA [The Religious Freedom Restoration Act] might authorize." 2

The executive order may violate the Establishment Clause of the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Lupu gave one possible result of the draft executive order. It

"... might invite federal employees [at the Social Security Administration or Veterans Administration, etc] to refuse on religious grounds to process applications or respond to questions from those whose benefits depend on same sex marriages. ... [If other employees do not] fill the gap [it could] lead to a situation where marriage equality was being de facto undermined by federal employees, especially in religiously conservative communities." 2

That would violate Supreme Court rulings -- most notably that in Obergefill v. Hodges in mid 2015. It stated that same-sex couples have the right to marry if they meet the same requirements in terms of age and lack of genetic closeness required for marriage in state law. Obergefill is currently effective throughout the U.S. and in four out of five U.S. territories.

  • Jenny Pizer, senior counsel and law and policy director for Lambda Legal, said that the draft order would appear to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by listing a:

    "... particular set of religious beliefs and giving special government protection to people who hold those beliefs, as opposed to different beliefs."

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More about the draft version of the Executive Order:

Section 4 of the order outlines "Specific Agency Responsibilities." It requires HHS (Health and Human Services) to exempt any person or organization with religious objections from complying with the federal Affordable Care Act's (a.k.a. Obamacare) preventative-care mandate, which includes birth control coverage. It also requires HHS to make certain that a person who obtains insurance on a health-care exchange be able to obtain a plan that does not cover abortions and does not "subsidize plans that do provide such coverage."

It prohibits HHS from taking any action against federally funded adoption, foster, family support, or other child-welfare organizations that deny services to potential customers because of "a conflict with the organization's religious beliefs." This would guarantee protection for many agencies that have refused on religious grounds to provide adoption services to same-sex couples.

Pizer asserted that conservative Christians and their groups:

"... would say that this is a nondiscrimination [executive] order. We disagree. We would say being denied the ability to discriminate against others is not discrimination against you."

A photograph of the draft version of early draft of the executive order and the full text can be read on The Nation web site. 2

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This topic continues in the next essay

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Related essays on this web site that you might find interesting:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Free image downloaded from Pixabay.
  2. Sarah Posener, "Leaked Draft of Trump’s Religious Freedom Order Reveals Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination," The Nation, at:
  3. Kaelyn Forde, "LGBT activists react to Trump's latest executive order: 'We have to remain extremely vigilant,' ABC News, 2017-MAY-04, at:

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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted on: 2017-MAY-04
Latest update: 2017-MAY-09
B.A. Robinson
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