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Religious Tolerance logo


Part 1

A Draft Version of a Presidential
Executive Order to Allow
Religious Groups to Discriminate:

No hatred 1

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2017-FEB-01: About the draft version of President Trump's "religious freedom to discriminate" executive order:

It was leaked to the public about three months before it was signed. In its draft form, it was similar to the Indiana, North Carolina, and Texas "religious freedom to discriminate" bills that have appeared in state legislatures.

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It would:

  1. Refer to, but not change, the existing freedom of religious beliefs, of religious assembly and of religious proselytizing for individuals and organizations. These freedoms are already fully guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

  2. Attempt to add the freedom for individuals and organizations to convert their sincere religious beliefs into actions that would freely discriminate against and denigrate groups of people, mainly:
    • members of the LGBT community, and

    • people who have engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, and

    • women seeking abortion access.

  3. Attempt to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which currently is:
  • "a provision in the U.S. tax code that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates." 6

Thus, for example, if this draft version were to be signed, clergy would be able to tell members of their congregations to vote for one political candidate while instructing them to reject other candidates.

Unlike the state bills, this executive order wording would apply across the entire country.

The early version of the executive order was leaked during early 2017-FEB to The Investigative Fund and The Nation magazine. 2 The order is formally titled: "Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom."

Rumors circulated that the President planned to sign the executive order on MAY-04, the National Day of Prayer.

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About the term "religious freedom:"

The definition of the term "religious freedom" has been in a state of flux recently. It has historically been used to refer to:

  • Individuals' freedom of religious beliefs and speech,

  • The right to assemble with other like-minded individuals into religious groups, and

  • The freedom to spread their beliefs by proselytizing other people.

However, in recent years, as implemented at the state level, laws regarding "religious freedom" have developed an additional meaning:

  • the religious freedom for people and religious organizations to take action based on their sincere beliefs by discriminating against and denigrating others.

They typically base their desire to discriminate on the basis of their victims' sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, sexual behavior, and/or freedom access to abortion.

The U.S. Supreme Court has lately complicated matters by granting small organizations and companies the status of individual humans. Most notable is the Hobby Lobby case in which certain companies and organizations have been giving the power to hold religious beliefs just like people, and refuse, on religious grounds, to provide contraceptives to their employees' health care plans.

The draft version of the Executive Order includes protection of "religious freedom" in every walk of life:

"... when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments."

If signed by the President, there would be inevitable conflicts between the order and numerous states' civil rights laws. These state laws generally ban discrimination based on race, skin color, gender, and religion. Many states go further and have laws that include prohibition of discrimination against persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sarah Posner, writing for The Nation magazine, sums up the scope of the draft Executive Order, saying:

"The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act." 2

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2017-MAY-03: Equality Pennsylvania becomes involved:

Equality Pennsylvania is a major pro-LGBT state-based pro-equality group -- sent an email to those on their mailing list saying:

"We can't let this move forward without a fight. The reality is that this executive order was brought forward before, and it was stopped because of public outcry. We must do everything we can today to stop it again. Call the White House today: (202) 456-1111. Your calls can make a difference."

We simply can’t afford another half-baked, ill-conceived Executive Order that does real damage to Americans in every community across the country. In Pennsylvania, protecting people from discrimination is a popular idea -- and this Executive Order would do the opposite. Under the guise of ‘religious freedom,’ this action would grant a license to discriminate that flies in the face of American values of equality and fairness.

We are glad to see that [Pennsylvania] Governor Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro are already speaking out against this order, and calling for protections in the state. And we have a lot of work to do in Pennsylvania to protect the entire LGBTQ community from discrimination. That work will be a fight too, but it's a fight that we have to win." 3

Both Governor Wolf and Attorney General Shapiro are Democrats.

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The key section in the draft Executive Order:

Section 4, Clause (e)(2) in the proposed executive order protects people's and groups' religious freedom to discriminate against others if they act:

"... (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as [only] the union of one man and one woman; sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage; male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth; and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life."

Punctuation was slightly modified from the original for clarity; Emphasis is by us.] 2

In other words, it takes the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment which guarantees freedom of religious speech, and adds to it the freedom of religiously-based action, even if that action discriminates against, denigrates, and/or harms others.

This freedom of religious-based discrimination against others would adversely affect many in the LGBT community and the more than 90% of people who engage in sexual behavior before, between, and after marriages.

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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. Image downloaded for free from Pixabay.
  2. Sarah Posener, "Leaked Draft of Trump’s Religious Freedom Order Reveals Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination," The Nation, at:
  3. Equality Pennsylvania's web site is at:
  4. "Life," Wikipedia, as on 2017-APR-30, at:
  5. Michale Coren, "Trump finds religion -- for political gain of course," The Toronto Star, 2017-MAY-08, at:
  6. "Johnson Amendment," Wikipedia, as on 2017-MAY-07, at:

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