What We're Watching For In President Trump's First Address To Congress

Image by uschools/Getty Images

Image by uschools/Getty Images

Excerpted from AU's Wall of Separation blog. Read more about the key church-state separation issues we'll be watching for in the President's speech here. President

Donald J. Trump will address a joint session of Congress tonight. Technically not a State of the Union address (the President does not give a State of the Union address until his second year in office), Trump will be setting out his vision and goals for his new administration. While we don’t know the full details of what he will say to Congress tonight, we will be watching for his comments on initiatives that may harm our LGBTQ neighbors and others in the name of religion.

Trump may again try to declare that he’s “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights.” But actions like this speak louder than words and the Trump administration has already taken steps to reverse the LGBTQ progress achieved under the Obama administration. 

Just last week, the administration rescinded Obama administration guidance reminding public schools that transgender student rights are protected under Title IX. We joined a diverse group of organizations in condemning this action because transgender students will surely face increased discrimination in the wake of the recession. 

The administration has also acknowledged that Trump is considering signing an anti-LGBTQ executive order that would allow discrimination in the name of religion. The draft executive order is aimed at allowing individuals, government employees, businesses, and taxpayer-funded organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, and their families. But it reaches even more broadly to affect those of minority faiths, non-theists, and almost anyone else. It even explicitly permits discrimination against people who have sex outside of marriage.  

Yesterday, a report indicated that advisers are rewriting this sweeping executive order, suggesting they know it’s on shaky legal ground. But the revised order is likely to be just as indefensible: it’s “anchor concept” will still allow businesses to use religion as an excuse to refuse to serve LGBTQ people.

Real religious freedom does not permit discrimination under the guise of religion. If and when this executive order comes, we are prepared to fight it. And you can take action right now to stand up for real religious freedom let Trump know that this draft order is unacceptable.

We know that this will not be the only religious freedom issue that comes up under the Trump-Pence administration. But one thing is certain: AU will continue to stand up to any attempts to harm true religious freedom. The next four years may present new dangers, but, just as we have for the past 70 years, whenever anyone uses religion as an excuse to harm others, we will fight back. 

Follow Rokia Hassanein online at @rokiahass