President Donald Trump is slated to sign an executive order on religious freedom come Thursday, May 4 — a policy critics say is essentially government-licensed discrimination.
White House officials confirmed the plan with CNN this week, though they cautioned that it hadn’t been finalized yet. Officials said lawyers are still working to tweak the draft language, but that the order was expected to roll out on the National Day of Prayer. The White House was already in talks to celebrate the event with faith leaders from across the U.S.
Officials stopped short of giving further details on the draft, which had previously leaked to The Nation in February. The order sparked an uproar, as it was riddled with broad language aimed at creating wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who hold religious and/or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and trans-identities. If signed, critics argue the bill would legalize discrimination, particularly against members of the LGBTQ community.
The order is a key victory in the eyes of Vice President Mike Pence, a staunch conservative who has long advocated for such religious freedom policies. During his time as governor of Indiana, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, drawing widespread criticism from civil liberties groups while amassing praise from evangelicals, CNN reported. The firestorm proved damaging to Pence’s governorship but did little to quell support from conservatives like himself.
Backers of the new religious freedom policy have since been working to revise the draft, thus ramping up pressure for Trump to sign it, Politico reported. The new draft is being kept under lock and key, but one influential conservative who saw it told the news site that the language hasn’t been toned down much, if at all, since February.
“The language is very, very strong,” the source said.
Trump has already sparked backlash from the LGBTQ community, after repealing bathroom protections and other policies put in place by former President Barack Obama. It is unclear exactly what the president’s religious freedom order will accomplish, but many fear it’ll deal a blow to significant gains made for LGBTQ Americans.
“If this possible executive order is similar to February’s draft, it would do nothing except give a national license to discriminate and endanger LGBTQ people and their families,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “President Trump is trying to create an America where my children could be turned away if a pediatrician doesn’t accept my wife and I.
“Nothing could be more un-American.”