Awhile back, Ted Cruz formed a committee to advise him on religious liberty issues. However, looking at their initial recommendations released yesterday, it appears the committee had a dual role — religious liberty and discrimination against GLBT folk. Here is the press release from the Cruz campaign:
Cruz Welcomes Initial Religious Liberty Recommendations from Advisory Council
Cruz: “As We Celebrate Spiritual Freedom During Easter, We Remember that Religious Liberty is the First American Freedom”
– Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz today received initial recommendations from his Religious Liberty Advisory Council
, formed last month to advise his campaign and future administration on policies to defend religious liberty domestically and internationally.
“During this Holy Week, as Christians prepare to celebrate spiritual freedom in Christ, we remember also that religious liberty is the first American freedom,” said Cruz. “I thank this learned and committed group of leaders for their wise recommendations, and as president I will be proud to work with them to protect our religious liberty. Defending religious liberty has been a lifelong passion, and I’ve been blessed to help win national victories, preserving the Texas Ten Commandments monument, the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial.”
The recommendations comprise 15 initial actions
, both legislative and executive, to emphasize and bolster the freedom of religion in the United States. Included are the following proposals:
- Issue an executive order preventing the federal government from discriminating against Americans who believe that marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman.
- Reinstate thorough and protective conscience rights protections in federal healthcare programs.
- Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to exempt all employers who object for moral and religious reasons from any contraception mandate.
- Update and revise military regulations to reflect a robust constitutional understanding of the first amendment rights of military personnel, particularly chaplains.
- Pass the First Amendment Defense Act “to prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.”
- Direct the IRS to publicly clarify the generous rights of non-profits and religious leaders to engage in political speech without compromising their tax-exempt status.
- Rescind executive orders which limit the government from partnering with faith-based non-profit organizations.
- Order the Department of Education to issue guidelines which accurately address the rights of students, teachers, and other school personnel to live out their faith in a school setting.
“Our constitutional liberties should not be subject to the whims of the current administration,” Cruz continued. “Whether Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor, people of faith should not be made to bow down at the altar of political correctness. As president, I have pledged on my first day in office to rescind every single one of President Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions, and to direct every federal agency to respect and protect the religious liberty of every American.”
Yesterday, oral arguments were presented before the Supreme Court in the religious liberty case Zubik vs. Burwell, which includes the appeals of Little Sisters of the Poor and Priests for Life for their right to serve the needy without suffering conscience violations from government. As Cruz has often said, “Mr. President, if you’re litigating against nuns, you’re probably doing something wrong.”
More than 46,000 Americans have joined the campaign’s Faith and Religious Liberty coalition.
The 15 initial actions provide a few more specifics. These two seem to have nothing to do with religious liberty and everything to do with discriminating against gays.
Rescind Executive Order 13672, which had (without adequate religious exemptions) required certain federal contractors to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In the alternative, create significantly larger and robust exemptions for religious organizations and businesses falling under the authority of Executive Order 13672.
Direct all federal agencies to stop interpreting “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and/or“gender identity” where the term “sex” refers to a protected class in federal law. Prioritize this effort at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Education,Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It is hard to imagine how requiring government contractors to be fair to gays infringes on anyone’s religious liberty. Contractors should not be allowed to fire a gay person simply for being gay. Cruz and company have singled out gays as the only group who can be discriminated against under these recommendations.
These recommendations are inconsistent with Ronald Reagan’s beliefs about discrimination and gays. Reagan opposed job discrimination against gays and as California governor opposed a ballot initiative which would have forbid gays from becoming teachers.
I generally favor an expanded ability of healthcare providers to decline to participate in procedures which violate their conscience.
An interesting effect of some of these planks, if implemented in an unbiased manner, is that all adherents of all religions would be freer to proselytize on the job or in the military. Chaplains have been limited from proselytizing by military guidelines. Christian chaplains have complained that they can’t share the Gospel. However, these guidelines also keep non-Christian chaplains from trying to convert Christians. Cruz’s team would open things up for lots of efforts to convert soldiers to various faiths. Personally, I prefer restrictions on workplace “soul winning” as helping to prevent religious coercion from superiors.
On the whole these guidelines target gays and would create more opportunities for religious coercion on the job.