Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

CONYERS AND COHEN: TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CONFLATES RELIGIOUS LIBERTY WITH THE RIGHT TO DISCRIMINATE IN LATEST TROUBLING ACTIONS

October 6, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Ranking Member Steve Cohen (D-TN) issued the following statement in response to the Trump Administration’s issuance of two deeply troubling documents:


(1) sweeping regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services that attack women’s healthcare by allowing any employer to deny their employees contraceptive coverage based on a religious or moral objection despite the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate and (2) a Department of Justice legal guidance memorandum to federal departments and agencies interpreting the scope of protection for religious liberty so broadly as to potentially undermine civil rights protections for LGBTQ persons, all under the guise of “protecting” religious liberty:     

“Protecting religious freedom does not include creating a right to harm or discriminate against others.  The Trump Administration, unfortunately, has chosen to use the protection of religious liberty as a justification to take away women’s access to contraceptive care and to undermine the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. The Administration’s actions today would allow corporations, whether publicly-traded or closely-held,  to deny essential health coverage for women and allow entities receiving federal funds to engage in invidious discrimination against people based on their gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, among other bases.   

“Under the legal guidance memorandum issued today by the Department of Justice, an entity receiving federal funds could be permitted to discriminate against LGBTQ persons for example, by denying the opportunity to adopt a child, declining to process spousal or survivor benefits, or refusing to provide any other service they would ordinarily provide.  None of these actions ‘protect’ religious liberty but, rather, warp the concept to create a right to discriminate.

“In a week in which the Republican-controlled House passed an unconstitutional and dangerous 20-week abortion ban bill, the Trump Administration’s new HHS rules would further limit women’s access to essential healthcare services. The new rules also undercut the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate by expanding the list of entities eligible to claim a religious objection to providing such coverage.  The list of covered entities will now even include for-profit, publically traded companies like Wal-Mart, who could claim a ‘moral objection’ to providing their female employees access to  essential healthcare services. This is a policy that goes even further than the extreme position taken by the Supreme Court in its 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

“President Trump views civil rights as just another political wedge issue, and his promotion of ‘religious liberty’ as a shield for discrimination will only further divide this country.  We will continue to fight for the rights of all Americans to be free from discrimination regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”