President Donald Trump has taken a direct jab at LGBTQ people in a Tuesday proclamation announcing the creation of “Religious Freedom Day.”
The commemoration is intended to mark the 232nd anniversary of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, a 1786 ordinance which helped inspire the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Trump claims in a presidential decree that a federal observance will henceforth be held on Jan. 16 to pay tribute to “the inherent values of faith, honesty, integrity, and patriotism.”
But the POTUS says certain communities have failed to appreciate these principles.
“Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification,” Trump alleges in a public statement. “These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy.”
“No Americanwhether a nun, nurse, baker, or business ownershould be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law,” he adds.
Although the president doesn’t single out the LGBTQ community specifically, the reference to a “baker” being compelled to violate his religious beliefs is telling. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has defended the right of a Colorado cakeshop owner, Jack Phillips, to refuse services for gay wedding ceremonies.
“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” the government argued in a September brief.
Trump’s “Religious Freedom Day” proclamation states that the president signed an executive order in May 2017 to strengthen those protections. The directive advised government agencies, including the Department of Justice, “to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom.”
The POTUS claims the policy “helps ensure Americans are able to follow their consciences without undue Government interference [sic].”
But the order didn’t achieve all that much, as many argued at the time.
Unlike a tabled proposal leaked by The Nation in February, it did not permit businesses and private individuals to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the name of faith. The American Civil Liberties Union referred to the finalized document as an “elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”
Nonetheless, Trump says in the Tuesday proclamation that the federal government will continue to uphold the values it alleges to have protected.
“We will be undeterred in our commitment to monitor religious persecution and implement policies that promote religious freedom,” the statement claims. “Through these efforts, we strive for the day when people of all faiths can follow their hearts and worship according to their consciences.”
Image via Getty.
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