July 27, 2017 at 1:15 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Tony Perkins: More action from Trump soon on ‘religious freedom’
Tony Perkins, gay news, Washington Blade

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins says more action on “religious freedom” is coming next week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In the aftermath of a religious freedom executive order signed by President Trump that had no explicit reference to LGBT issues, the head of a top anti-LGBT group close to the White House said more action is coming next week on the issue — code for social conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, made the remarks last night on “Washington Watch” the weekly radio broadcast produced by the organization.

“By the way, stand by next week, you’re going to see some follow-up to the president’s executive order on religious liberty,” Perkins said. “The next phase of that is going to be coming about and I think it is going to be very instructive. We are going to see government agencies basically put on notice that they have to respect religious freedom. And that is not just the ability to believe, it is the free exercise of religion.”

It’s unclear exactly what Perkins was referencing. Earlier this year, a draft executive order on “religious freedom” that would have enabled sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination circulated among federal agencies and advocacy groups, although Trump never signed the order.

Instead, Trump in May signed a religious freedom executive order that was largely a symbolic statement in favor of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and against the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law barring churches and religious non-profits from making political endorsements.

The directive made no explicit reference to LGBT issues, although it charged U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions with implementing federal guidance in favor of religious freedom. That language alarmed some LGBT groups like the Human Rights Campaign, who said it opened the door for discrimination.

At a conference earlier this month, for the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, Sessions said guidance for “religious freedom” is on the way.

Although he didn’t offer details, the attorney general said it would “help agencies follow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” That law, which prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, was passed in 1993 on a bipartisan basis, but has been cited as legal basis for allowing anti-LGBT discrimination.

“Congress enacted RFRA so that, if the federal government imposes a burden on somebody’s religious practice, it had better have a compelling reason,” Sessions said. “That is a demanding standard, and it’s the law of the land. We will follow it just as faithfully as we follow every other federal law. If we’re going to ensure that religious liberty is adequately protected and our country remains free, then we must ensure that RFRA is followed.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, distributed the audio of Perkins predicting action on “religious freedom” and warned Trump against following through with discrimination.

“If President Trump issues another executive order based on advice from anti-LGBTQ extremist groups like the Family Research Council, he will be harming countless hardworking Americans and their families,” Ellis said in a statement. “The ‘religious exemptions’ laws that groups like the Family Research Council are successfully pushing fly in the face of real American values and open LGBTQ people and our children up to discrimination.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Why should this surprise anyone? I have no doubt that the fake POTUS will back anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious freedom! He played those of you that were duped by his promises to protect LGBT Americans while holding up a rainbow flag as evidenced time and again since he assumed office. Despite all that BS from Thiel at the RNC and all the GLBT that supported him!

    Except for preserving the exectuive order Obama had protecting LBGT from discrimination (which he can easily undermine or rescind at any time), he has backstabbed trans people twice by abandoning the court case before the SCOTUS for bathroom rights, and now serving the military, signed an executive order to undermine the Johnson Amendment so religious groups can keep tax exempt status despite pushing a political agenda against the community, ignored gay men being forced into concentration camps in Chechnya, refused to recognize Pride month and recently tacitly approved Session filing a brief to say existing civil rights laws do not protect GLBT against discrimination!

    Let’s not forget that there is a court case going to the SCOTUS challenging anti-discrimination laws that penalize business that refuse to serve gay couples. I’m sure that Session if still AG will also file a brief in favor of religious freedom! That opens the door for anyone to use the faith card against you in any capacity!

    This is the most anti-GLBT administration in over 25 years that I can recall! Time to wake up to the grim reality and deal with it! You’ll see Trump only make it worse as he works with the likes of Tony Perkins to push that agenda! This should silence those uppity Trump supporters in our community that keep trying to dupe us into thinking that we only have Muslims to fear and that christian conservatives are not a threat. That we have nothing to fear from Trump and his agenda! Stop accepting the lies and work hard to oust this tyrant! We need to first start by getting rid of the GOP control of Congress so Trump cannot push his agenda against us!

  • Makes sense. Normalize discrimination against LGBTQ+ people first, and then it’ll be easier to go after other groups later.

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