Culture Beat / May 8, 2017

ACLU Shrugs at Religious Liberty ‘Photo-Op’

The anti-Christian group views Trump’s latest executive order as bait not worth taking. Yet.

On Tuesday, May 2, the ACLU tweeted out this stern warning: “[I]f President Trump signs an order that would allow religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate, we will sue.” Then, on Thursday, May 4 — the day Donald Trump signed off on a religious liberty executive order — the organization stated in a press release that the “ACLU Promises Litigation on Today’s Trump Executive Order.”

Well, that was the plan, at least. By late Thursday afternoon, the ACLU had published a follow-up press release in which the organization seemingly backtracked. The statement read: “After careful review of the executive order covering the Johnson Amendment signed by President Trump today, the American Civil Liberties Union has determined not to file a lawsuit at this time.” In truth, the group’s hesitation isn’t really backtracking. Rather, the group contends that the immediate threat was overblown, but it’s also not letting its guard down.

According to ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, “[Thursday’s] executive order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome. After careful review of the order’s text we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process.” He added, “What President Trump did [Thursday] was merely provide a faux sop to religious conservatives and kick the can down the road on religious exemptions on reproductive health care services. … The ACLU stands ready to sue the Trump administration and in the event that this order triggers any official government action at all, we will see Trump in court, again.”

The ACLU’s response certainly speaks volumes about the downsides of executive orders. It also aids the perception that the executive order was unsatisfactory. The ACLU obviously thinks the EO carries little weight. And to a certain extent, it’s right. Trump likely intended it as bait for a lawsuit, so as to settle the matter in court. The ACLU didn’t take that bait … yet.

Furthermore, we’ve written that what Obama did by the pen can die by the pen, and Trump’s EOs are no different. The battle over religious liberty is going to continue with or without Trump’s directive (just consider the way the Leftmedia tip-toes around the phrase “religious liberty”). If Americans really want to ensure that religious liberty is respected and protected, Congress will need to intervene. That’s how to ultimately get the ACLU off your back permanently, too.


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