Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have been pushing back against conservatives in the Trump administration who want to defend religious liberty, Politico reported on Friday. Their influence could have a wide-ranging and lasting impact on the ability of Christians and other religious Americans to practice their faith without government interference.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump helped lead the charge to scuttle a draft executive order that would have overturned Obama-era enforcements of LGBT rights in the workplace, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO.
A draft executive order on LGBT rights that outlines how to roll back former President Barack Obama’s protections and expand legal exemptions based on religious beliefs has been circulating among journalists and worried progressive groups this week.
But two sources close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have a record of supporting gay rights, said the couple favored putting out a clear statement from the president, promising to uphold the 2014 Obama executive order and stopping the momentum for the turnaround in its tracks.
It appears that “enforcement of LGBT rights in the workplace”—a euphemism for using government force to make people violate their religious beliefs—has become a source of conflict within the Trump administration. On one side are staunch social conservatives like Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical who backed a religious liberty law in his home state of Indiana before backing away from it after a nationwide backlash and threats of boycotts. On the other side of the issue are more liberal members of the administration, including Trump’s daughter and son-in-law.
White House officials are downplaying reports of a draft executive order, describing it as one of 200 that have been considered during the transition. “Some are real, some are drafts of things people like, and some are ideas people from outside have suggested,” one official told Politico.
“There are a lot of ideas that are being floated out,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in his Thursday briefing when asked about the rumored order. “Part of it is, the president does all the time, he asks for input, he asks for ideas, and on a variety of subjects there are staffing procedures that go on where people have a thought or an idea and it goes through the process.”
Apparently on Ivanka and Kushner’s advice, Trump dealt a blow to religious liberty this week when the White House released a statement saying that he will not rescind President Obama’s 2014 executive order making LGBT a protected class in government hiring and employment. “The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump,” the statement read.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” it continued. “The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”
That order, however, is incompatible with the vow Trump made at the National Prayer Breakfast this week. The president promised that his administration “will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty.” But he can’t have it both ways. LGBT rights, as we’ve seen over the last several years, often come into conflict with deeply held religious beliefs. When that happens, the constitutional right to religious liberty ought to prevail. Unfortunately, in one of his first executive actions, Trump signaled that he will stand against freedom for people of faith.
President Trump did throw a small bone to the faithful at the prayer breakfast, vowing to repeal the Johnson Amendment, an arcane IRS rule that prevents non-profits, including pastors and churches, from politicking and endorsing candidates. While it’s a nice gesture—the unconstitutional rule ought never to have been created in the first place—it’s not the pressing religious liberty issue that people of faith are concerned about. Indeed, no pastors or churches are being penalized using the Johnson Amendment—unlike bakers and florists and federal contractors whose faith is under constant assault by LGBT activists.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the future of religious liberty in the United States could be irrevocably altered in the next few months. If a Republican president won’t hold the line—indeed, if Trump continues to join the left in weaponizing the government to force people of faith to comply with the left’s cultural mores—then we can probably kiss the concept of freedom of religion goodbye.
Ultimately, it may come down to who has Trump’s ear.
“There are some in Trump’s family that have some views on these things. That’s where the decision is ultimately being made,” a source close to the discussions told Politico.