Trump Administration obliterates Religious Freedom Protections for LGBTQ Americans

Donald Trump at rally
Donald Trump

Anti-LGBTQ regs are highly orchestrated

How is the Trump Administration planning to make use of its last weeks in power? By eliminating religious freedom protections for LGBTQ Americans across ten different agencies. The roll-out of these anti-LGBTQ regulations is highly orchestrated. The final rules attacking religious freedom protections will go into effect on Religious Freedom Day—yes, you read that right, on January 16, Religious Freedom Day.

“LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, and the nonreligious will bear the burden of these rules”

“Once again, the Trump Administration is hijacking Religious Freedom Day to strip away religious protections from LGBTQ Americans. The irony is palpable,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists, in a statement.

These anti-LGBTQ regulations will go into effect at the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Veterans Affairs and the Administration for Children and Families and USAID.

Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the anti-LGBTQ First Liberty Institute, told Deseret News that “[t]hese changes will good for every American and especially for people in need.”

Civil rights organizations, including American Atheists and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), disagree. “LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, and the nonreligious will bear the burden of these rules,” said Rachel Laser, President, and CEO of AU.

With the removal of these religious freedom protections, discrimination in government services will become more likely say activists. Religious providers will no longer have to give beneficiaries written notice of their rights—including not being subjected to religiously inspired discrimination or forced participation in religious activities. In addition, if the beneficiary objects to proselytizing, the religious provider will no longer have to take steps to find the person an alternative provider.

“Religious groups should not be allowed to take taxpayer funding, mistreat LGBTQ people in need, and then make them think that they have no other options. It’s immoral and unconstitutional,” said Alison Gill.

In 2010, President Obama signed executive orders to add in these religious freedom protections. They were based on recommendations made by the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which included the President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA; the General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and the Vice-President of Evangelization, North American Mission Board and Past President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Then, in 2016, agencies throughout the government passed regulations to implement these protective executive orders.

“There’s a reason why both secular advocates and religious leaders came to the consensus view that these religious freedom protections are necessary—it’s because they are,” said Gill.

Maggie Garrett, AU’s Vice President for Public Policy, said that while the Biden Administration would likely overturn these anti-LGBTQ rules, incoming officials will “have to go through the rule-making process again. People could be harmed in the meantime.”

“Starting on day one of the Biden Administration, we will work with the new leadership at these departments and agencies to fix these discriminatory changes that undermine Americans’ religious liberties,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists.