Congressional Republicans are calling on President Trump to issue a long-rumored executive order that would target LGBTQ people and undermine Obamacare-mandated contraception coverage under the guise of so-called religious freedom.
USA Today first reported Monday that more than 50 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter to Trump encouraging him to issue the religious imposition executive order. Rewire obtained a copy of the April 5 letter from the office of Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), who is leading the discriminatory effort.
“You need not and should not wait for Congress to act before ordering the federal government to stop discriminating against individuals and institutions because of their reasonable beliefs on issues of deep concern to people of faith and good will,” Davidson and his colleagues wrote in the letter. Signatories included ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) and one woman, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), who served on a highly partisan, $1.59 million “witch hunt” based on discredited anti-choice allegations against Planned Parenthood.
Advocates have been on guard against an executive order along the lines of religious imposition measures modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and others sweeping through GOP-held state legislatures. Such measures purport to protect religious freedom at the expense of marginalized groups, while codifying the imposition of religious beliefs on others and giving the courts potential justification to rule against legal challenges to discriminatory actions.
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Reports quickly mounted in late January of a draft executive order that advocates told Rewire amounted to a “license to discriminate” against LGBTQ people. A handful of House Republicans the following month laid the groundwork for such action in a hearing voicing their hardline religious imposition rationales for Congress and Trump.
GOP support for religious imposition appears to be growing on Capitol Hill. Eighteen members of the U.S. Senate picked up their pens in a letter dated a day before their House counterparts’.
“An executive order requiring federal government agencies to protect the right to religious freedom is necessary, and directing agencies to adhere to existing federal laws protecting religious freedom is sound policy,” the senators said in an April 4 letter to Trump.
The House letter’s wish list for “prompt executive action” began with ending Obamacare’s popular birth control benefit requiring health insurance plans to cover 18 U.S. Food and Drug-Administration forms of contraception at no cost to the consumer. The benefit is already at risk in the burgeoning regulatory war on women’s health-care benefits.
The same paragraph similarly alluded to the false claim that President Obama’s signature health-care reform law provides federal subsidies for elective abortions in demanding “that Americans are not coerced to buy abortion coverage under Obamacare exchange plans.”
The Republicans asked Trump to issue “protections” that mirrored the anti-LGBTQ First Amendment Defense Act, the anti-choice Conscience Protection Act, and the motherlode of codified discrimination, the defeated Russell Amendment targeting gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and reproductive health-care decisions.
The Republicans urged Trump to make good on his campaign pledge to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 provision barring tax-exempt organizations like churches from making political endorsements. One of the letter’s signatories, Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), is an original co-sponsor of current legislation (HR 781) to that end.
“We look forward to coordinating with your office on these efforts,” the group of Republicans said.
USA Today cited a senior White House official in reporting that “some sort of policy to protect religious liberty is still in the works, but that the president is trying to find middle ground.”
“The official acknowledged it would be a delicate balance and said discussions were ongoing about how best to proceed,” the outlet reported.