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Advocacy Groups—And Even The Clergy—Are Ready To Fight Trump’s Religious Freedom Order

Get ready for a battle

President Donald Trump is expected to sign a highly controversial executive order on religious liberty on Thursday, according to several sources. Indicating that the signing of the order is imminent, Trump invited several religious freedom leaders to the White House on Thursday, which also happens to be the National Day of Prayer.

Two senior administration officials confirmed the plan to Politico, though they noted that the language in the executive order has yet to be finalized. The executive order could allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBTQ people and refuse them service.

The signing of the order would mark a major victory for Vice President Mike Pence, who in 2015 signed a statewide Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law while he was governor of Indiana.

In February, a version of the document that was said to be a draft of Trump’s religious freedom executive order was leaked to several outlets. That version, titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” according to The Nation. It also protects religious freedom in several circumstances including, “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

But, if the order is signed, even if it’s edited down from its previous version, the resisters are ready to fight.

“We just got word that President Trump has resurrected his outrageously misnamed “religious freedom” executive order and plans to sign it on Thursday. I promise you—we’re ready to sue,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in an email statement. “We still have time to act before Trump signs the order. So while the ACLU prepares to wage lawfare, we need you to fight this with all you’ve got.”

In its statement, the ACLU provided a link so that anyone interested and willing can send a direct message to the White House condemning the order.

Additionally, several high-profile advocacy groups, including GLAAD and the National LGBTQ Task Force, are already condemning the very thought of the order.

“If this possible executive order is similar to February’s draft, it would do nothing except give a national license to discriminate, and endanger LGBTQ people and their families,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “President Trump is trying to create an America where my children could be turned away if a pediatrician doesn’t accept my wife and me. Nothing could be more un-American.”

While many would expect these groups to fight Trump’s bigoted actions, what some might find surprising is the full-page ad in Politico taken out by 1,300 members of the clergy. It reads in part:

Although it purports to strengthen religious freedom, what this order would actually do is misuse this freedom, turning it into a weapon to discriminate against broad swaths of our nation, including LGBTQ people, women, and children in foster care. We urge you to turn away from all proposals that would abuse religious freedom, including any executive orders on this issue that are currently under consideration.

The religious freedom upon which our nation was founded has allowed our country’s diverse religious landscape to flourish. The draft executive order flies in the face of that rich diversity by enshrining one religious perspective—on marriage, gender identity, health care, and the role of houses of worship in partisan politics—into law, above all others. This is neither what religious freedom means in the eyes of the law, nor what religion itself means to millions of Americans of faith.

As the ACLU added in its statement, “Religious freedom does NOT mean the right to discriminate against or harm anyone. But this White House thinks it can actively encourage and legitimize discrimination against LGBT people, women, and religious minorities. The ACLU won’t stand for it—and I know you won’t either.”

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