A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination.
The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “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.”
The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.
Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”
The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as “sweeping” and “staggering,” may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted. It also, by extending some of its protections to one particular set of religious beliefs, would risk violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” said Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on church-state separation and religious freedom.
UPDATE: More from ABC News.
White House officials told ABC News that the draft appears to be among the hundreds of executive orders that are circulating –- drafted by either the Trump transition team, the White House policy team or even by outside groups –- and that not all reflect administration thinking or likely policy. One official did not say who drafted this potential order, but did not dispute its authenticity. “We do not have plans to sign anything at this time but will let you know when we have any updates,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokesperson.
Several outside conservative groups that have been pushing for similar actions have been pressing for something to be released surrounding Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, told CNBC on Tuesday that he believed that “religious liberty” would be addressed in an executive action by Trump, despite the president’s statement earlier that day. “I think this is going to be addressed,” Perkins said. Perkins did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.Make the jump here to read the original and more at JMG