President Donald Trump will sign a religious freedom executive order, according to news reports. Trump is expected to sign the order today, May 4 -- the National Day of Prayer.
Back in February, a leaked document -- apparently a draft of the order -- contained this line: "It shall be the policy of this Administration to protect religious freedom." The draft may have been created by the transition team or by the White House, according to The Nation, which reported on the leaked draft in February after it obtained the document.
"Religious freedom is not confined to religious organizations or limited to religious exercise that takes place in houses of worship or the home," the draft order also said. "It is guaranteed to persons of all faiths and extends to all activities of life."
The president has invited conservative members to the White House on Thursday, according to a Politico report. There is rampant speculation about what Trump will include in the executive order.
"Two senior administration officials confirmed the plan, though one cautioned that it hasn't yet been finalized, and noted that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language," the Politico article noted.
"There could be no better day to sign an executive order on religious freedom than the National Day of Prayer," said Mat Staver, who heads Liberty Counsel, a legal firm that has fought against same-sex marriage, as USA Today reported.
Here are three major points from the early leaked draft:
1.) Americans can express their viewpoints without punishment from the government. "Persons and organizations do not forfeit their religious freedom when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts: or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments."
2.) Americans would not be forced against their conscience to purchase health insurance that covers abortions. "The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall take appropriate actions, through mechanisms to ensure compliance with existing statutory and other protections, if necessary, to ensure that any individuals purchasing health insurance in the individual market (whether through a federally facilitated exchange, a state-sponsored health insurance exchange, or otherwise) has the ability to purchase health insurance that does not provide coverage for abortion and does not subsidize plans that do provide such coverage."
3.) Religious organizations would not have to violate core values to adhere to government policies. "The Secretary of Health and human Services shall take all appropriate actions to ensure that the Federal Government shall not discriminate or take any adverse action against a religious organization that provides federally-funded child-welfare services, including promoting or providing adoption, foster, or family support services for children, or similar services, on the basis that the organization declines to provide , facilitate, or refer such services due to a conflict with the organization's religious beliefs."
Critics of the early draft say the order would allow individuals to "discriminate" against the LGBT community. The American Civil Liberties Union has already threatened to sue. "If President Trump signs an order that would allow religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate, we will sue. #SeeYouInCourtAgain," the legal and advocacy organization tweeted on Tuesday.
"The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate against or harm others," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement on May 2.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner may have had a hand in pushback on the executive order, according to reports.
"White House officials downplayed the turnaround, suggesting that the draft LGBT executive order would never have reached the president's desk for his signature," Politico reported in February. "They described it as one of about 200 executive orders that were contemplated during the transition -- some by outside groups, others by transition officials -- and that it was never intended to be signed, even without pushback from Kushner, Ivanka Trump or anyone else."
Yet conservative lawmakers have urged Trump to sign the executive order. A group of 51 conservatives in the House sent Trump a letter in April strongly encouraging him to take action.
"Executive and legislative action is also needed to protect religious liberty in light of the Supreme Court's recent redefinition of marriage," stated the letter, obtained by USA Today. Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) led the efforts on this letter.
"This legislation would prevent instances such as the USDA threatening to shut down meat-packing plants simply because they express their beliefs on marriage at their business," the letter noted.
The issue of religious freedom has resonated with the American public. Eighty-nine percent of adults think religious liberty is an important issue, according to the survey research center Marist College Institute for Public Opinion (home of the Marist Poll).
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that freedom of religion should not be restricted by government laws, according to the Marist Poll. "Sixty-five percent of adults nationwide believe that freedom of religion should be protected even if it goes against government laws," according to the poll.
The Marist Poll's phone survey included interviews with 2,729 adults from December 12 through December 19, 2016.
This survey, sponsored and funded in partnership with the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus, noted that 82 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of independents agree "medical professionals with moral objections should not be legally required to provide abortion services."