Politics / We The People

Trump Administration Defends Religious Liberty – for Individuals and Employers

religious liberty

Chalk up another success for religious freedom.  Private sector businesses of all kinds – profit and non-profit, goods and services – trying to contract with the Federal Government may soon be allowed to do so without loss of religious liberty. 

In short, the US Department of Labor is issuing a new rule.  The rule aims to assure “that conscience and religious freedom are given the broadest protection permitted by law,” and that American businesses are not disallowed from federal contracting based on religious views of their owners or employees.

If the rule sounds like common sense, it is occasioned by long-percolating concerns that federal agencies have explicitly or implicitly avoided contracting with religiously affiliated organizations, or worse have required competing businesses to abandon religious precepts in order to win a federal contract.

In short, the First Amendment provides all Americans – including those who own businesses – the right not to be discriminated against based on their sincerely held religious views. On one hand, the Federal Government cannot favor one religion over another.  On the other hand, freedom of conscience is plainly assured – and should always be for businesses conforming to their owner’s beliefs.

The US Constitution is clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” This fundamental right has been many times reaffirmed, including by Civil Rights Act of 1964, which contains an unambiguous exemption for religious organizations. 

Likewise, the right was affirmed in Executive Order 11246, and has been in regulations governing employment practices by federal contractors – promulgated by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Notably, our Founders did not think religious faith – and freedom to put faith into practice – was secondary, peripheral, negotiable or unimportant.  That is one reason the protection appears in our First of Ten which compose the Bill of Rights. 

Notably, our Republic’s Founders included Anglicans (George Washington, John Jay, Edward Rutledge), Presbyterians (John Witherspoon, Richard Stockton), Congregationalists (John Adams, Samuel Adams), as well as Quakers, Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, Deists, and Catholics (Charles Carroll, Thomas Fitzsimmons).  What is more, faith undergirds the Declaration of Independence.

Before recent disputations and Supreme Court rulings affirming “free exercise” rights, such as in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the legal right existed to believe, practice and freely conduct business pursuant to one’s religious faith has been recognized.

Unclear has been the Federal Government’s duty to comply with principles affirmed in prevailing law.  Quoting from Justice Kennedy’s majority in Masterpiece, there must be no “clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating” an employer’s decision not to perform certain acts. 

Likewise, from Masterpiece, an arm of government was wrong to declare “that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain,” since the public sphere and commercial domain are simply extensions of constitutionally protected individual belief.

Finally, Kennedy noted that government cannot favor one set of religious beliefs over another, or secular over religious beliefs, a view that Justice Gorsuch expanded in a concurrence, pointing out that government had permitted secular objections to prevail, but now objected to a religious objection.

In short, the law has always been clear – and was recently crystalized again by the High Court – allowing sanctity of conscience and “free exercise” of faith to take precedence over other considerations. 

The remaining problem is this:  Despite clear constitutional and statutory provisions, Supreme Court rulings, and an Executive Order, some federal agencies appear to be dragging their feet.  Religious organizations – and non-religious organizations governed by those holding sincere religious convictions – have not been treated equitably. 

The solution is therefore timely, and worth being trumpeted.  The US Labor Department is eliminating any lack of clarity.  The proposed rule will affirm “the protections afforded religious organizations and individuals under the Constitution and federal law.” 

Specifically, “Executive Orders 13798, Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, and 13831, Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, along with U.S. Department of Justice guidance … instruct federal agencies to protect religious exercise and not impede it.” 

The new rule assures that “religious organizations may make employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government.” 

At the same time, squaring current misunderstandings, the new rule “reaffirms employers’ obligations not to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or other protected bases and does not exempt or excuse a contractor from complying with any other requirements.”

The result is that hiring, and treatment decisions must abide civil rights laws, while religious organizations and individuals with “sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs” cannot be discriminated against by reluctant, often seemingly anti-religious federal government agencies.

The Department concluded, in closing, that “consistent with the president’s policy to enforce the robust protections for religious freedom found in federal law, the proposed rule states that it should be construed to provide the broadest protection of religious exercise recognized by the Constitution and other laws, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

What does this all mean?  Simply this:  For some time, those of faith have felt they stood on uneven ground when approaching the federal government.  The ground is now level, at least in theory.  The First Amendment’s assurance of “free exercise” without government discrimination is again affirmed.

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Deborah Wood
1 year ago

These rules need to be applied to universities even more than to businesses. Allow free and open debate in science, evolution vs intelligent design.

Mark Hart
1 year ago

Religion, yes, but not false religions that want to kill us all.

1 year ago

This decision should not apply to those who are not citizens. If an immigrant needs to have his/her religion recognized by our government he/she must apply for citizenship. I think Justice Kennedy implies this.

Vicky Kramer
1 year ago

Muslims are also celebrating. We must be vigilant with whom we associate.

Phil Hammersley
1 year ago

Liberals (socialists, communists,etc.) hate God and therefore will oppose anything and anyone who supports God and virtue. Even leftist church “leaders,” who inevitably run churches which don’t believe in the divinity of Christ or the authority of Scripture, go along which gives cover to the RATS. The RATS say “Even the religious (NOTE: not Christian) leaders support our far-left plans!

1 year ago

I’m not sure Islam should even count as a religion as it is really more of a government. Muslims can’t separate their religious selves from their public selves and also cannot cope with any other person’s rights to their own religion. All you have to do is notice the whole Sharia Law concept to see that.

S. D. Broder, Sr.
1 year ago

The same principles used to defend the First Amendment in the above article, equally apply to the defense of the Second Amendment. No state, county, or local government should be able to use its power to pressure financial institutions not to due business with firearms related manufactures, dealers, retail outlets, or membership organizations. [Yes, I mean New York State v. NRA]

Douglas Davis
1 year ago

Does that mean a bakery shop doesn’t have to cater to a gay wedding if it is counter to their religious beliefs?

Kyle and Ryan Rodriguez
1 year ago

I have a new sense of freedom that was lost several years ago!

Greg Russell
1 year ago

“We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” John Adams

1 year ago

Go Trump Go 2020

Ed Curtis
1 year ago

I am all for Freedom to Worship any religion one pleases to do: BUT when observance of a religion contradicts the mandatory issues of a business, the business should not be forced to change. For instance, some religions have restrictions against shaving a beard, others have restrictions on hair cutting. If these individual can not accept the standards of a job that requires the wearing of a certain uniform or safety item, the individual should seek employment where there ae no restrictions.. (For instance Fire and Police agencies normally require members to be clean shaven because if gas masks have… Read more »

Josephine pooley
1 year ago

As always, constitutional protections apply only to CITIZENS!

Josephine pooley
1 year ago

LOVE this! Finally a correct interpretation of our constitutional rights!

1 year ago

it’s about time. The law has been there but many times ignored in favor of the minority. Separation of church and state is NOT there in the law. That was in a given speech by Thomas Jefferson. We all have the freedom to worship and believe as we want and that includes our businesses too if everyone understands the rules it stands on. We need to go further Hate crimes are just that Hate Crimes. they don’t have to debate over the crime; some people just hate others. so be it. Hate crimes have severe punishments and should be given… Read more »

Brenda Blunt
1 year ago

Finally, some good news. Now, this needs to be applied to all aspects, whether it be business, education, or everyday living.

1 year ago

Trump 2020 or the lib leftest will turn it back around to favoring the socialist

Joanna Johnson-Smith
1 year ago

Hallelujah!! FINALLY, the SCOTUS is returning to Constitutional Law! Well, at least that’s ONE of the Bill of Rights they are obeying. Now if we can get them to take the REST of them seriously, especially the SECOND. No one has the power to pick and choose what parts of the Constitution they will obey or not obey, EVERY word is LAW, and everyone is bound to follow it, like it or not!

1 year ago

Yes, as, if I do or do not have a religious preference, it is my preference and not some bureaucratic dweeb to apply judgment. If that occurs, jettison the dweeb and get on with business. They live off the work we do and pay taxes on. Self-righteous people need to find justice as well.

Todd Taylor
1 year ago

Our religious liberty is given to us by God and can only be taken away by God. Praise God.

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