ADL to Challenge Justice Department Religious Liberty Guidance

Calls it a “Roadmap for Discrimination”

New York, NY, October 10, 2017 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed deep concern about guidance issued by the Department of Justice on how the Trump Administration should interpret religious liberty protections in federal law.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, issued the following statement:

This is a destructive and discriminatory policy that is using religious beliefs as an excuse to weaken anti-discrimination laws and to infringe on the rights of religious minorities, women, and LGBT persons. The government should not be in the business of sanctioning discrimination in the name of religion. ADL will continue to stand up against government-funded religious discrimination in Congress, in federal agencies, and in the courts.

ADL believes that true religious freedom is best achieved when all individuals are able to practice their faith or choose not to observe any faith; when government neutrally accommodates religion, but does not favor any particular religion; and when religious belief is not used to harm or infringe on the rights of others through government action or others in the public marketplace.

The Department of Justice’s twenty-five page memo, sent to all federal agencies, contains twenty principles of religious liberty and accompanying interpretations of constitutional and federal statutory protection for religious liberty that violate each of these fundamental principles.

The bottom line is this: the government should not sanction discrimination in the name of religion and should not fund it.

While the memo contains useful affirmations for accommodating religious practice in the military and the federal workforce, the overarching impact of the guidance is to create a deeply-problematic roadmap for discrimination against religious minorities, LGBT people, and women – including hiring and firing on the basis of religion, religious practice in government-funded jobs, and restrictions on women’s equality and reproductive freedoms. Indeed, this guidance is the basis for an interim Department of Health and Human Services regulation that effectively eviscerates the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate by allowing any employer to opt out of this requirement based on a religious or moral objective. The memo also opens the door to proselytizing of beneficiaries in federally-funded social welfare programs

Moreover, the DOJ guidance gives short shrift – just a passing reference – to the government duty to avoid endorsing a particular religion or religious belief.

There is much that can be done to oppose the memorandum. The Justice Department guidance is just that – guidance for the federal government agencies. It does not change current law and it is not binding on federal courts and state governments, legislatures, or courts.

ADL will challenge the new contraceptive mandate rule by submitting comments to the Department of Health and Human Services and look to file a legal brief in one of three lawsuits already filed against the rule. And we will continue to oppose any other effort to permit government-funded or sanctioned religious discrimination in Congress, in federal agencies, and in the courts.

No American should be treated like second-class citizens due to their religious beliefs and practices, or who they love.

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