Last week, former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, a Republican from Wyoming, extended a piece of advice to fellow Republican President Donald J. Trump on his rumored draft “religious freedom” executive order that would allow the use of religion to discriminate: “Don’t do it.”
The order, which leaked to the press in February, is shockingly broad. It would permit discrimination, including by for-profit corporations and taxpayer-funded organizations, against nearly everyone. The order targets LGBTQ people and women, but it would also affect those of minority faiths, non-theists and almost anyone else. It authorizes discrimination under the guise of religious freedom in hiring, public services and benefits, healthcare, adoption and foster care services, education, and more. And it favors social service providers, corporations, and government employees who oppose marriage for same-sex couples, oppose abortion, and think gender identity is fixed before birth.
This so-called “religious freedom” executive order would also betray real religious freedom. Religious freedom guarantees us the right to believe or not as we see fit, but it doesn’t give us a right to harm others. Enshrining discrimination in our nation’s laws is not religious freedom.
In a The New York Times opinion column, former Senator Simpson, in his usual plain-spoken way, urged the president to reconsider his position. He explained, “supporting discrimination against anyone is just a bad idea and that doing so in the name of religion is hypocritical as well.” He went on to cite more reasons: discrimination in the name of religion (which he called “plain cruel and ugly”) is quite unpopular and the judiciary would likely hand him “another embarrassing rebuke” of his policies. And, he pointed out how it would harm Republicans, recalling the widespread backlash to the North Carolina anti-trans law and Mike Pence’s Indiana “religious freedom” law, while at the same time handing Democrats a “great cause, new supporters, new energy and money.”
You should read former Senator Simpson’s op-ed for yourself, it’s an emphatic indictment of the draft executive order. And then you should take action, urging President Trump to not sign it.