‘Religious Liberty?’ GOP Lawmaker Not Down With Vatican Requiring Vaccinations

Freshman Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-NC)
Freshman Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-NC)
Freshman Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-NC)

Freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) stepped in it a bit after tweeting about a news report indicating the Vatican may fire employees who don’t get vaccinated for the coronavirus.

The 25-year-old wrote, “This doesn’t sound legal… One shouldn’t be forced against their will to be vaccinated. The vaccination is there for those who want it, and are in need of it due to medical vulnerabilities.”

Folks were quick to note the irony that the conservative lawmaker defends the concept of “religious liberty” wherein churches make their own rules about how to go about business.

As one commenter wrote, “This will age well when he demands religious organizations be allowed to fire people for who they have sex with.”

Plus, the Vatican being a sovereign state, it fall outside of Cawthorn’s North Carolina congressional district.

Attorney General Announces ‘Religious Liberty Task Force” to Promote & Protect Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a task force to promote and protect so-called 'religious liberty' which includes allowing LGBTQ discrimination in the name of religious beliefs
Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced the creation of a ‘Religious Liberty Task Force” in order to help implement a 25-page memo he issued last October regarding the protection and promotion of ‘religious liberty.’

Speaking at the Justice Department today, Sessions told reporters he will chair the new task force.

“A dangerous movement, undetected by many, but real, is now challenging and eroding a great tradition of religious freedom,” said Sessions with a dramatic sense of foreboding. “There can be no doubt it’s no little matter. It must be confronted intellectually and politically and defeated.”

In today’s political climate, it’s clear the subject being discussed includes legal challenges brought by the LGBTQ community regarding discrimination in the public sector. Sessions referenced anti-LGBTQ baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple in Colorado.

More from The Hill:

“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about dogma—even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. We’ve all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips,” he said, referring to the Colorado baker who took his case to the Supreme Court after he was found to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Sessions said the guidance he issued in October lays out 20 fundamental principles for the executive branch to follow, including the principles that free exercise means a right to act — or to abstain from action — and that government shouldn’t impugn people’s motives or beliefs.

“In short, we have not only the freedom to worship—but the right to exercise our faith. The Constitution’s protections don’t end at the parish parking lot nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.

Sessions also shared that he believes the issue of ‘religious liberty’ is one reason why Donald Trump was elected president. “In substance, he said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith,” said Sessions. “He declared we would say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

You can watch the full speech by Sessions below, and you can read a full transcript of his speech here.

Walgreens Pharmacist Refuses Medication For Woman With Unviable Pregnancy

A first grade teacher in Arizona was denied necessary medication needed to end an unviable pregnancy
Nicole Arteaga

Nicole Arteaga, a first-grade teacher in Arizona, recently got the sad news that her nine week-old pregnancy had stopped developing.

With no heartbeat, the pregnancy would end in a miscarriage.

Instead of going through a surgical procedure to remove the fetal tissue, Arteaga opted to use a medication to provide what would basically be a medical abortion.

The FDA has approved misoprostol to end a pregnancy within the first ten weeks.

But when she went to pick up the prescription at her local Walgreens, the pharmacist inquired as to whether she was pregnant. When she shared that she was, the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription based on “his ethical beliefs.”

Arteaga shared her experience with the Walgreens pharmacist on Facebook and the post has gone viral having been shared almost 40,000 times.

I stood at the mercy of this pharmacist explaining my situation in front of my 7 year old, and five customers standing behind only to be denied because of his ethical beliefs.

I get it we all have our beliefs. But what he failed to understand is this isn’t the situation I had hoped for, this isn’t something I wanted. This is something I have zero control over. He has no idea what its like to want nothing more than to carry a child to full term and be unable to do so.

If you have gone thru a miscarriage you know the pain and emotional roller it can be. I left Walgreens in tears, ashamed and feeling humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor.

Walgreens eventually contacted Ms. Arteaga “and apologized for how the situation was handled,” but said company policy allows their pharmacists to decline to fill prescriptions in such situations.

“To respect the sincerely held beliefs of our pharmacists while at the same time meeting the needs of our patients, our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection,” the company said in a statement.


Attorney General Issues “Religious Freedoms” Guidance Which Undermines LGBT Protections

Attorney General Jeff Session

Donald Trump promised his evangelical/religious supporters he would work to undercut LGBT protections and today his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, issued new guidance to agencies that will allow a simple claim of a violation of religious freedom to justify LGBT discrimination.

From the AP:

The guidance, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump’s pledge to his evangelical and other religious supporters, effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.

Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others. The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.

This new guidance comes a day after Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy protecting transgender people from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

More from the Washington Blade:

Key portions of the memos should be troubling to proponents of LGBT rights. The memo to agencies allows individuals to act or abstain from action according to their religious beliefs and prohibits the government from targeting religious individuals and organizations for acting on those beliefs.

Although the memo asserts the change won’t enable anti-LGBT discrimination under the law, that language is found nowhere as a limiting principle in the memos themselves. That assurance is left out in important passages asserting the primacy of religious freedom that could be construed to allow anti-LGBT discrimination.

Under the principles of the guidance, for example, a Social Security administrator charged with processing benefits applications could see an application for same-sex spousal benefits and refuse to process that application for religious reasons.

From the Human Rights Campaign:

“Today the Trump-Pence administration launched an all-out assault on LGBTQ people, women, and other minority communities by unleashing a sweeping license to discriminate,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This blatant attempt to further Donald Trump’s cynical and hateful agenda will enable systematic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards. We will fight them every step of the way.”

Podcast: Season 2 Of Netflix’s Sense8 , Trump & Religious Liberty, Anti-LGBT Army Secretary Nominee Withdraws & More

On this week’s  The Randy Report podcast:

• A Mississippi funeral home refuses to cremate a gay man

• The Equality Act reintroduced in Congress

• Donald Trump signed his Religious Liberty executive order without specific LGBT animus, but don’t exhale just yet

• Trump’s anti-LGBT Army Secretary nominee withdrew from consideration due to his past homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic comments

• Netflix releases Season 2 of the LGBT inclusive sci-fi series, SENSE8 – #LoveIt

Listen below. And don’t forget to subscribe to The Randy Report podcast on iTunes here.

News Round-Up: May 5, 2017

Henry Cavill

Some news items you may have missed:

• Happy 34th birthday to SUPERMAN star, hunky Henry Cavill!

• The ACLU calls President Trump’s Religious Liberty executive order “fake news” not worth suing over, while anti-LGBT foe Brian Brown rants that Trump failed to protect Christians from homosexual persecution.

• Bermuda’s high court legalized same-sex marriage today, becoming the 7th of the 14 British Overseas Territories to now have marriage equality.

• Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has demonstrated his lack of empathy for folks in the past, announced today he would consider opting-out of the pre-existing condition policies under the Affordable Care Act, should Trumpcare pass in it’s present form. Which it won’t. I’m guessing he just wanted to be extra douche-y today.

• Broadway leading man, Ramin Karimloo (currently starring in ANASTASIA), shared this today on Instagram for #FlashbackFriday, and I couldn’t stop listening 🙂

President Trump Signs Executive Order Easing Restrictions On Religious Institutions

This morning, President Trump signed an executive order easing the restrictions on politicking by tax exempt religious institutions.

The executive order was written to undermine the Johnson Amendment, the 1954 law that prohibits 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, such as churches — from making political endorsements. Trump promised on the campaign trail to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment.

Signing an executive order gives guidance to federal agencies but does not rescind the law. That would take an act of Congress.

It was widely expected that today’s EO would follow the blueprint of an anti-LGBT “religious liberty” executive order. leaked to The Nation last month. The actual text of today’s EO has not been released, but on a conference call last night, reporters were told the EO would not pertain to LGBT issues.

The document below was handed out to reporters last night as bullet points regarding today’s executive order.

I’ll be curious to read the outrage from far-right conservatives who may feel they didn’t get the “religious liberty”/license to discriminate EO they might have expected.

Kasich On LGBTs Fighting Discrimination: “Can You Just For A Second Get Over It?”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash yesterday, was asked whether he would do anything to stop the current flood of “religious liberty” laws that are targeting LGBTs across the country.

His answer? No.

And in his answer Kasich said, “If you feel as though somebody is doing something wrong against you, can you just for a second get over it?”

Mind you – in Kasich’s homestate of Ohio, you can be fired for being gay.

TJ Helmstetter, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement calling the governor out which read in part:

“John Kasich can’t have it both ways. Either you’re for discrimination, or you’re against it. To tell LGBT victims of discrimination to ‘just relax’ and ‘get over it’ is disrespectful, outrageous, and not the kind of leadership expected from a credible presidential candidate. Kasich can continue trying to put a friendly face on his party’s discriminatory policies, but the fact remains that his own state remains a minefield for LGBT people who can still be fired for being who they are. As governor, Kasich has done nothing to help end discrimination against LGBT employees, and he was the final obstacle preventing marriage equality in Ohio before the Supreme Court’s decision. Trump and Cruz may make a lot of people look reasonable by comparison, but Kasich is no ‘moderate.’ He’s certainly no friend to the LGBT community.” – TJ Helmstetter, DNC spokesperson

Georgia Could Lose Super Bowl Due To Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

As Georgia’s newly passed House Bill 757 – the so-called ‘Religious Freedom’ legislation – heads to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for signature or veto, big businesses are weighing in and they don’t like what they see.

While pretending to protect religious freedoms, what HB757 actually does is legalize discrimination against LGBTs.

Now, the NFL has sent a non-too-subtle message to Gov. Deal – veto the hate or lose the Super Bowl.

From Outsports:

“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”

Atlanta is one of the four finalists to host the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020. The Atlanta Falcons have been embroiled in a controversy of their own this month after reports of coaches asking prospective players if they are gay.

Meanwhile, Falcons owner Arthur Blank has publicly opposed the bill:

“One of my bedrock values is ‘Include Everyone’ and it’s a principle we embrace and strive to live each and every day with my family and our associates, a vast majority of which live and work in Georgia. I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors coming to enjoy all that our great state has to offer. House Bill 757 undermines these principles and would have long-lasting negative impact on our state and the people of Georgia.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the NFL moved a Super Bowl over perceived discrimination. In 1992, the League moved the Super Bowl from Arizona to Los Angeles when the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day.