Economy

Trump DOJ and HHS Issue Major Religious Liberty, Pro-Life Protections

Trump DOJ and HHS Issue Major Religious Liberty, Pro-Life Protections”

"Preserving religious freedom does not mean expanding the right to impose beliefs on others", Decker said.

"Today the Trump administration made two commendable decisions in support of the bedrock American principle of religious liberty", Dr. Matthew Franck, director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, told CNA, calling the actions "cause for much celebration".

Later in the document, Section 4 of that executive order provides, "In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law".

Sessions cited as examples that the Bureau of Prisons can not prohibit an incarcerated Muslim from growing a beard, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may not require religious employers to cover contraceptives that conflict with their convictions under the threat of fines.

"Groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who dedicate their lives to the indigent elderly, can finally expect the restitution of their conscience-rights in court", Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy advisor with The Catholic Association, stated on Friday.

Government may not officially favor or disfavor particular religious groups.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation also released a pair of statements on Friday condemning the Trump administration's policy of allowing religious people to oppose birth control.

"R$3 eligious organizations may choose to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the organization's religious precepts", he outlined. The new rule takes effect immediately.

And the "accommodation" offered to non-profits, where their insurer or third party administrator provided the objectionable coverage, is now voluntary, the Department of Health and Human Services announced.

In the memo to Justice Department attorneys, Sessions urged his subordinates to keep in mind the primacy of religious freedom in actions such as drafting rules within the administration.

"We welcome the news that this particular threat to religious freedom has been lifted", they stated. He was sued over his refusal and the case is now before the Supreme Court.

Sessions also clarifies religious protections under Title VII in federal law governing employers, regarding (#16) not discriminating against employees on the basis of religion, including (#17) religious observance and practice.

As a general matter, the federal government may not condition receipt of a federal grant or contract on the effective relinquishment of a religious organization's exemptions or attributes of its religious character. The cases are now still at the federal circuit court level.

Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with government.

MA attorney general Maura Healey said the contraception rule is unconstitutional because it allows the federal government to endorse certain religious beliefs over a woman's right to make choices about her health care.

Government may not restrict acts or abstentions because of the beliefs they display.

"I assume those lawyers at DOJ will cooperate and go into the courtrooms and admit that the federal government broke the law, and that the Little Sisters and other groups are entitled to a final injunction to give them lasting protection against this kind of treatment", he said.

The guidance memo, which avoided mentioning pending cases by name but did refer to the ongoing controversy over contraception coverage in Obamacare, directs federal agencies to observe 20 "principles of religious liberty".

In a call with reporters, ADF CEO Michael Farris confirmed to ABC News that Sessions met with the group during a series of so-called "listening sessions" convened by the Attorney General, who says he was "seeking suggestions regarding the areas of federal protection for religious liberty most in need of clarification or guidance". It states that "Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place".

"To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, ... religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting and programming", Sessions wrote. "This guidance turns that understanding of religious freedom on its head".

"We've never had anything this far-reaching before", he said, noting that the guidance puts religious freedom on the level of freedom of speech. "It also encompasses religious observance and practice". The memo does this via provocative language such as "freedom of religion is a fundamental right of paramount importance" and "government may not interfere with the autonomy of a religious organization" by, for example, forcing an Orthodox yeshiva to accept female rabbinical students.



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