"Federal statutes, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, support that protection, broadly defining the exercise of religion to encompass all aspects of observance and practice, whether or not central to, or required by a particular religious faith". Now, any employer can claim a religious or moral objection and opt out of covering contraception. Senators who care about civil rights must press Attorney General Sessions on this issue when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee in two weeks.
"Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law", Sessions wrote.
"Our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people", Sessions said.
"It is countenancing discrimination", said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the ACLU.
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Pedro Portal/TNS/NewscomToday, as President Donald Trump's administration is announcing that employers with religious concerns will have an easier time getting exemptions from the birth control mandate, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released a lengthy memo describing the Justice Department's approach to religious freedom.
Politico adds that this new legal guidance "could affect health care, gay rights, political action by churches", and says it takes a "muscular view of religious freedom rights". But critics say the guidance could undermine protections for the LGBT community. In a memo to the nation's federal prosecutors, Sessions says the law bars discrimination between men and women but does not extend to gender identity.
Government may not target religious individuals or entities through discriminatory enforcement of neutral, generally applicable laws.
The guidance was generated in response to President Trump's executive order that was supposed to make it easier for churches to engage in politics without losing their tax-exempt status. Although the executive order said nothing about LGBT issues, many feared handing that authority to Sessions would enable to him direct the government to discriminate against LGBT people. The Sessions memo "doesn't legalize discrimination at all", scoffed one to Politico. This document lists 20 guiding principles that define religious freedom and how the government should correspondingly act. "TLDEF will continue to stand up for our community and fight to ensure that transgender people are protected against sex discrimination". Trump himself hasn't generally expressed the animus towards LGBT people that he's shown for Mexicans, Muslims, and women, and sometimes quite the opposite-promising, for instance, to protect the community after a gunman killed 49 people in a Florida nightclub during his election campaign.
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In short, the new guidelines from the Trump administration are despicable. "They did not want to move forward because it could impact their ability to get other jobs and other employment". It says that the federal government may not substantially burden the free exercise of religion, unless there is a compelling state interest in doing so, and it is carried out in the least-restrictive manner possible.
Rick Garnett, a law professor at University of Notre Dame, said in some respects, the guidance served to "summarize, re-state, and endorse existing and established Supreme Court doctrine", but in others, it took "strong religious-freedom stands on questions that are contested".
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. Well, it could try, but I predict the courts are not interested in reconsidering the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage recognition and the government would lose.
Many other states have passed similar religious freedom bills.
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