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.”