A proposed "religious freedom" executive order has been circulating since the beginning of February, but until May 2 it remained ominous conjecture. On Tuesday morning Politico reported that the leaked draft, which The Nation originally obtained through senior administration officials in February, would be signed on Thursday.
- Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) May 2, 2017
Under the guise of promoting religious freedom, the so-called Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom would permit both individuals and organizations the right to discriminate based on "sincerely held religious beliefs." In Sarah Posner's February analysis of the drafted order for The Nation, she cited critics as describing it as "sweeping" and "staggering."
According to Politico's report, the executive order's original draft was allegedly prevented from being signed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Since then, Vice President Mike Pence has worked to rewrite the order, but officials who have seen the most recent draft told Poltico that it had largely remained unchanged.
Here's a brief rundown on what February's version of the proposal mandated.
- It would allow individuals and organizations the right to disengage from activities that "violate their conscience."
- It would allow employers to refuse contraceptive coverage if it violates their religious beliefs.
- It would protect the tax-exempt status of religious organizations or private company 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," and that an "individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy" and "that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life."
- It would allow federally funded adoption agencies the right to discriminate against same-sex couples.
- It might allow federal employees the right "to refuse on religious grounds to process applications" of same-sex couples based on the proposal's broad language.
- It would establish a new bureau in the Justice Department that would protect "religious freedom."
The executive order's decrees echo a bill passed in Mississippi that was eventually ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge; however, advocates for the law have appealed the decision. It's also an order that many have attributed to Pence's influence and beliefs. The ultraconservative former governor of Indiana endeavored to pass a similar bill during his tenure. Following widespread backlash to the original law he signed back in 2015, Pence signed a revised version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Indiana), which kept a majority of the first's discriminatory tenants but prohibited businesses from objecting to serve people based on sexual orientation.