Federal protections will only go so far in the complicated tussle between faith and LGBT rights.
Evangelicals are anticipating President Donald Trump’s next move to protect religious liberty, after he nominated a pro–religious liberty judge to the Supreme Court and defended the cause at the National Prayer Breakfast last week.
Reports circulated over a draft of an executive order designed to expand protections for individuals, organizations, and corporations’ religious convictions—including traditional beliefs on gender, sexuality, and marriage.
Last Thursday, both Trump and White House press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated the new administration’s commitment to ensuring religious freedom and defending the right for Americans to “express areas of their faith without reprisal.” Spicer did not confirm Trump’s plans for the four-page leaked draft, titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom.”
Over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence dodged a question about the administration’s plans for an executive order on religious freedom (instead focusing on the President’s pledge to repeal the Johnson Amendment). It’s unclear whether or when Trump plans to act on such an order. But advocates for both religious freedom and LGBT rights continue to weigh in on the proposal.
According to experts, Trump’s executive order would strengthen religious exemptions under federal laws and programs, but it wouldn’t have the reach to quell debates over Christian-owned businesses refusing to serve same-sex weddings.
Yet the draft describes wide-ranging protections, saying, “Persons and organizations do not forfeit their religious freedom when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking …