The Trump administration’s Friday issuance of “religious freedom” guidance and rollback of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate appalled progressives and many other Americans — but members of the religious right are over the moon.
The “religious freedom” guidance, issued by the Department of Justice, assures federal grantees and contractors, and employees of federal agencies, that they don’t have to serve clients who pose a conflict with their religious beliefs — for instance, by being LGBT, a single parent, or a believer in a different religion. It also allows faith-based organizations to discriminate in employment without losing federal contracts or grants, and shapes the stance the federal government will take in court cases regarding discrimination.
The new Health and Human Services rules allow virtually any nonprofit or for-profit employer to seek an exemption from the ACA contraceptive mandate, which required employers to provide contraceptive coverage in group insurance plans at no cost to the employee. Some faiths oppose all forms of “artificial” contraception, while others believe certain contraceptives, such as the birth control pill, result in early abortions, and refer to the pill as an “abortion pill.” The Obama administration allowed employers with an actual religious affiliation to have their insurers fund the coverage instead of the employer, but that accommodation was not satisfactory to some.
A sampling of religious right reactions to Friday’s actions:
“This morning … another concrete step was taken toward undoing the anti-faith policies of the Obama administration. While the Obama administration quarantined religious beliefs as if they are a plague — the Trump administration is restoring our First Freedom to where it’s belonged since the founding of our country.” — Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council
“We commend President Trump for instructing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to send a strong message to the rest of America that religious freedom must be protected. The President has reversed the Obama-era policies and committed to protecting and promoting the religious freedom upon which this nation was founded. The Department of Justice must now vigorously enforce all Americans’ civil right of free exercise of religious liberty. This is an extremely positive step in the right direction.” — Mat Staver, founder and chairman, Liberty Counsel
“The American Family Association is heartened to see strong action taken on two issues that have long troubled those with closely held religious beliefs. No one should be forced to either pay for a service or perform a service that violates their faith. AFA thanks President Trump for his continued commitment to religious freedom, and for the real and tangible ways his administration is creating policies to protect Americans’ constitutionally granted liberties.” —Tim Wildmon, president, American Family Association
“The Obama administration’s repeated violations of conscience were deeply contrary to the core of our nation, which was built on the foundation of respect for the individual freedoms of the people and deeply held religious beliefs. We thank President Trump for fulfilling a core promise to voters of faith and conscience who elected him.” — Marjorie Dannenfelser, president, Susan B. Anthony List
“The story should be that this is a president who is truly committed to liberty. He is committed to America, and he is working to keep his word to the American people. That is incredibly honorable and noble.” — Penny Nance, president and CEO, Concerned Women for America
“All Americans should have the freedom to peacefully live and work consistent with their faith without fear of government punishment. The guidance that the Trump administration issued today helps protect that First Amendment freedom. As CEO of the largest religious freedom legal organization in the world, I commend the president for taking another step to honor his campaign promise to make religious liberty his ‘first priority’ by directing the Department of Justice to issue this guidance, which simply directs the federal government to adhere to its legal and constitutional obligation to respect existing religious freedom protections.” — Michael Farris, president, CEO, and general counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
“Americans United for Life applauds the actions of the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that the right of conscientious employers and employees not to participate in or provide abortion-causing drugs is protected in law. Millions of Americans want no part of an insurance system that subsidizes the destruction of innocent human life, and HHS’s new interim regulation respects that principled stand.” — Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO, Americans United for Life