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Religious exemptions are gutting civil rights protections, advocacy groups warn
The Trump administration's expansion of religious exemptions is undermining civil rights protections and codifying discrimination against marginalized groups — particularly LGBTQ people — according to a report released Monday by three research and advocacy groups.
Using a combination of new rules, legal interventions and newly created divisions, the departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor and State have all taken steps to advance "religious liberty," often at the expense of LGBTQ rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for American Progress and the Movement Advancement Project argue in their report.
The proposed rules — from the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Agriculture and Education, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development — would undo several Obama-era regulations, including those that require federally funded religious organizations to inform beneficiaries about certain rights.
For example, if a homeless LGBTQ teen sought help from a faith-based provider and the provider was not accepting of the teen's sexual orientation or gender identity, the provider would no longer have to inform the teen under the new rule about alternative providers that may be more accepting.
"These rules would be harmful to LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and others during the best of times, but they're particularly unconscionable during a public health crisis when even more people than usual are relying on social services," said Rachel Laser, president of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which was not involved with Monday's report.