The Trump Era

Draft of Trump executive order allows firing based on religion

President Donald Trump Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE, Feb. 1, 2017: This post has been updated throughout to add comment and context.

The Trump administration would allow religious organizations receiving federal dollars to hire and fire employees based on their beliefs, according to a draft executive order obtained by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

If enacted, the plan could allow employers to deny health care benefits for birth control. In addition, federally funded groups could prevent married same-sex couples from adopting.

Under the draft order, federal employees could refuse to do their jobs if work duties violate their beliefs. It would create a section or group within the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce the order.

The order states that the U.S. Constitution “ensures that Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”

“It shall be the policy of this Administration to protect religious freedom,” the draft states.

Maggie Garrett, legislative director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the order uses religious freedom as a guise to discriminate.

“It’s shocking in scope,” she said. “It uses religion as an excuse to discriminate against almost anyone. It targets LGBT people and women, but those of minority faiths and nontheists and almost anyone else will be affected.”

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for President Donald Trump, did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

In 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers.

U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, an Oklahoma Republican, introduced an amendment in response that would have allowed faith-based organizations that receive federal grants or contracts to hire and fire based on religious beliefs.

In December, Congress dropped the amendment. The Obama administration had objected, saying it would “undermine important protections put in place by the President to ensure that federal contractors and subcontractors do not engage in discriminatory employment practices.”

Reached Tuesday, Russell offered support for the draft order.

“A lot of these folks that are crying for tolerance, they’re not allowing tolerance on the other side of the issue,” he told Reveal. “They don’t want people of faith to do what they do. They want to take away your beliefs and your ideologies. They’re saying we want accommodation, and you can’t have yours.”

Civil liberties advocates say Trump’s proposed executive order flies in the face of a recent White House statement vowing to uphold protections for the LGBT community.

“If signed, this executive order would be a devastating attack on the rights and dignity of LGBT people and women,” said Ian Thompson, a legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Some federal laws and regulations ban religious discrimination in employment by government contractors or recipients of government grants. Each year, thousands of federal contracts are awarded to religious organizations that provide services to those in need, including veterans, refugees and prison inmates.

Jennifer Gollan can be reached at jgollan@revealnews.org. Follow her on Twitter: @jennifergollan.

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