(AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Clergy members warn that Donald Trump's religious liberty executive order will "harm others in the name of those beliefs"

The order is called "nothing more than a license-to-discriminate order that puts millions of LGBTQ people at risk"


Matthew Rozsa
May 3, 2017 10:11PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump is expected to sign a so-called "religious liberty" executive order on Thursday, one that will "allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBT people following months of pressure from right-wing groups," in the words of Salon's own Nico Lang.

Yet while it isn't surprising that the American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to sue the Trump administration over this executive order, many in the religious community are also objecting to it.

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In a full-page ad that was republished in Politico, more than 1,300 members of the clergy argue that "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." They also point out that "freedom of religion guarantees us the right to hold any belief we choose and to act on our religious beliefs, but it does not allow us to harm others in the name of those beliefs."

Rabbi David Sapirstein, who for two years served as U.S. religious freedom ambassador for the State Department under President Barack Obama, told Think Progress that the order would create "significant constitutional problems" and "raises very serious equal protection issues."

These are not simply the perspectives of religious leaders. When a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute asked members of different religious groups whether they believed small businesses should be allowed to refuse service to LGBT individuals on religious grounds, the only group that provided majority support for that position were white evangelical Protestants (50 percent supported it, 42 percent opposed it).

Every other religious group polled opposed allowing anti-LGBT discrimination by businesses, including 87 percent of Unitarian/Universalists, 76 percent of Buddhists, 74 percent of individuals who were religiously unaffiliated, 73 percent of individuals who identified as "other religion", 72 percent of Jews, 66 percent of Black Protestants, 63 percent of Hispanic Catholics, 63 percent of Hindus, 62 percent of white mainline Protestants, 61 percent of white Catholics, 60 percent of Muslims, 58 percent of Orthodox Christians, 53 percent of Jehovah's Witnesses, 52 percent of Hispanic Protestants, and 52 percent of Mormons.

Overall, 61 percent of Americans opposed allowing the type of discrimination that Vice President Mike Pence and his Christian right-wing followers have pressured Trump into legalizing. As Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, told LGBT Weekly, "Donald Trump’s rumored unconstitutional action is nothing more than a license-to-discriminate order that puts millions of LGBTQ people at risk."

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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