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Report: White House drafts executive order to expand religious freedom protections

Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to sign an executive order that would vastly expand religious freedom protections, including offering legal defenses to organizations and individuals who oppose same-sex marriage, contraception coverage and more.

The Nation, a progressive magazine, was the first to obtain a copy of the alleged order, "Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom," which will grant protections to "any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations, operated for a religious purpose, even if its purpose is not exclusively religious."

The order calls on the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury to "immediately issue" an exemption to all religious organizations and individuals from having to comply with the Affordable Care Act's requirements for employers to provide contraceptive coverage.

The order reads:

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.

The highest-profile case involving Obamacare's preventative-care rule came in May of last year, when the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic institution, went to the Supreme Court over its objection to the HHS mandate. Ultimately, the high court vacated the lower court's ruling that the Little Sisters had to offer contraceptives and denied that the mandate significantly burdened their religious convictions.

The order also offers tax-exempt protections to individuals or organizations with religious convictions against protections outlined in Obamacare:

The Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure that the Department of the Treasury shall not impose any tax or tax penalty, delay or deny tax-exempt status ...on the basis that such person or organization ... believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.

Furthermore, the executive action would establish within the Department of Justice a "working group" dedicated specifically to investigating potential violations of religious liberty.

Religious freedom has garnered renewed attention since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

In addition, North Carolina has been caught up in a national debate following the passage of its so-called "bathroom law," which mandated that individuals must use the restroom that correlates with the sex listed on their birth certificate. The bill led several popular performers, businesses and sports leagues to boycott the state.

The controversial legislation was likely responsible, at least in part, for former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's loss in the state in November.

As to whether or not this specific order is coming down the pike, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the Trump administration is "not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue."

All of this follows news that Trump will not overturn former President Barack Obama's 2014 protections for LGBT government workers.

Here's the full text of the order, via the Investigative Fund:

Draft Religious Freedom Executive Order by Tré Goins-Phillips on Scribd

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