Religious freedom: Trump’s clear message
No doubt about it: “This is the Christian Right’s presidency,” said Jay Michaelson in TheDaily Beast.com. Under the guise of protecting “religious freedom,” the Trump administration last week “quietly unleashed a barrage of executive actions” that erase years of progress for women and LGBT people. First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government will no longer prosecute employers for discriminating against transgender people. Then he instructed government lawyers to prioritize religious freedom at all times—essentially giving religious organizations the green light to discriminate against gays in hiring. Finally, the administration expanded the exemption rules for the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate—so now all employers no longer have to offer their workers birth control coverage, provided they have a “sincerely held religious or moral objection.” The Trump administration is sending a clear “message to religious groups,” said Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern in Slate.com. Whenever there’s a conflict between religious teachings and our nation’s discrimination laws, it will side with religion every time.
“The Trump administration has done the right thing,” said NationalReview.com in an editorial.
Sessions’ legal guidance wasn’t a major policy change—it just “forcefully reiterated” existing religious-liberty protections undermined by the Obama administration. The contraception mandate, in particular, was an “assault” on religious liberty. There is simply no way employers such the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns, should be “dragooned” into subsidizing their workers’ “life choices.” Liberals are treating this as an attempt to “ban” birth control, said John McCormack in WeeklyStandard.com. But the rule “tweak” will affect only a tiny percentage of American women working for companies with sincere objections to contraception.
Liberals have never understood why religious conservatives support a president as “un-Christian” as Trump, said Hugh Hewitt in The Washington Post. Well, now they have their answer. The president has already nominated a raft of “solid” conservative judicial appointees—“the source of the ultimate protection of faith”—and last week he proved he’ll go the extra mile to protect religious liberty. For many evangelicals and Mass-attending Catholics, having the freedom to practice their faith is the central right by far. If Trump backs them on that, they’ll forgive him almost anything.