Thursday, February 9, 2017

Joseph Backholm and Christian supremacy

Prior to Obergefell Backholm led a failed petition effort
to ban same-sex marriage in Washington
Joseph Backholm, leader of Family Policy Institute of Washington sent out an email Thursday afternoon oddly titled: “Trump and Religious Liberty at Risk.” Backholm is taking that leaked draft of a Trump executive order very seriously. At the risk of repeating myself, Trump is quite capable of issuing an odious anti-LGBT executive order. However, unless proved otherwise, that early draft of questionable provenance is meaningless.

Moreover, religious liberty has never been at risk. It has been protected in accordance with Supreme Court precedence while balanced against other constitutional rights and the Establishment Clause. Mr. Backholm seeks to redefine religious liberty to mean the liberty to discriminate against other citizens.

Backholm bullets the various provisions of the draft. Much of this comes from a polemic by Ryan T. Anderson which he cites. Interestingly, Anderson wrote an almost identical piece two days before the supposed leaked draft was on line. The similarity exists because these demands are an effort to short circuit the legislative process through executive order. Among the bullets is this:
Creates protections for religious organizations that contract with the government: It adopts the Russell Amendment and instructs all agencies of the federal government to provide protections and exemptions consistent with the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act to all religious organizations that contract with the federal government or receive grants.
Seriously? The Russell Amendment was intended to legislate away President Obama's executive orders banning discrimination in the federal workplace and by federal contractors. The Trump administration has already announced that it will allow Obama's executive order to stand (along with a statement expressing support for the LGBT community). Now Backholm really expects Trump to sign and executive order that contradicts his stated policy. Trump is erratic and impulsive so anything is possible. Nevertheless I do not think that he is willing to make himself look even more foolish than he already does.

However, I do expect the Russell Amendment to get tacked onto something that requires only a simple majority in the Senate and I expect that Trump will sign it.

While he is at it, Backholm wants Trump to repeal the Johnson Amendment by executive order. That is something that he cannot do. Nevertheless:
Protects tax exempt status for religious organizations: It instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to ensure that it does not revoke nonprofit tax status because a religious organization’s ordinary religious speech deals with politics, or because it speaks or acts on the belief that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that a person’s sex is based on immutable biology, or that life begins at conception.
In other words let us say that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wants to support a candidate with television advertisements. With the candidate's stated positions the ad is contoured (thinly) as “religious speech.” They could solicit funds to do so and those contributions would be tax deductible. It would also be dark money because a 501(c)3 entity does not have to publicly disclose its donors.

Again, Trump has promised to sign such legislation and a bill has been introduced in the House that is not limited to religious organizations (whatever the hell that means). We will have to see what Congress does. What is good for churches is also good for unions and progressive organizations and probably foundations. I'm not sure that this has the support required. At this point we do not know. I also do not think that Trump can legally repeal legislation by executive order and there would certainly be push-back in the courts by “so-called” judges.

And just to be sure about permitting LGBT discrimination:
Protects federal employees from discrimination based on beliefs: It instructs all agencies that they may not take adverse action against federal employees, contractors, or grantees because of their speech about marriage outside of their employment, contract, or grant, and that agencies shall reasonably accommodate such beliefs inside of employment, contract, or grant.
This is out of the First Amendment Defense Act. Again this contradicts the executive order that Trump has already promised to sustain. How, exactly, does an agency “accommodate such beliefs” when they are an expression of bigotry? Why does a federal employee need to inflict his intolerance on everyone else — including citizens served by the agency? That is precisely what an ambiguous accommodation would do.

FADA is real and it is currently stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is probably unconstitutional per se. It would have to be reintroduced in the House. The last go-around the sponsors had to make changes to the bill that no Christian GOPer could possibly sign since it recognized same-sex marriages in order to pass constitutional muster. It is probably a dead issue but Trump has promised to sign the damned thing. You never know when it comes to conservative Christian Republicans. Come to think of it, with the ouster of Eric Cantor there don't seem to be any Republicans in Congress who aren't Christian. I could be wrong.

Backholm concludes by asking his supporters to write, call and tweet Trump. He also opines:
While progressives have already labeled them as plans to “legalize discrimination“, they’re mostly a restatement of what religious freedom has always been understood to mean.
Bullshit. There is ample precedence going back nearly 140 years. We are a secular nation with respect for the Establishment Clause. It's only over the last 35 years or so that Evangelicals and conservative Catholics have assaulted us with manufactured religious rights which are often at the expense of the rights of other citizens. They sure as hell are persistent pricks:

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