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Biden and Democrats in Congress voting for Equality Act are undermining religious rights

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I’ve heard from many religious Americans that they feel threatened because the White House, the House of Representatives and, effectively, the Senate are all controlled by Democrats. And one of the first measures the new Congress is voting on seems to confirm their fears: the Equality Act, which could undermine religious rights and portray time-honored religious beliefs as un-American.

The Equality Act as written insults our nation’s foundational commitment to the rights of religious believers.

The House first passed the legislation in 2019, but it stalled in the Senate. Now it’s set to be voted on again Thursday by the new House. It’s expected to easily pass the chamber, though its fate in the evenly divided Senate is unclear.

The Equality Act would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s consistent with last year’s Supreme Court ruling finding that the 1964 law’s Title VII language prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of “sex” includes these categories of workers, but the Equality Act would go well beyond employment.

Now, no religious American of goodwill wants to see gay or transgender people threatened in any way. But millions of religious Americans of goodwill have deep, faith-based convictions about marriage and sexual identity, including, for example, that marriage is a holy commitment made by a man and woman to each other before God and that the Creator bestowed DNA and morphology as the only arbiters of gender identity. By vilifying those ideas, the Equality Act would vilify all who hold them to be true.

Indeed, contrary to how it is often portrayed, the Equality Act wouldn’t simply amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Equality Act would go a step further — and herein lies the radical rub — by cutting off avenues of appeal for any penalties imposed under the act.

Specifically, it would override the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gives people a way to challenge government requirements that they feel impinge on their religious rights. The religious freedom act was needed because of a Supreme Court ruling in 1990 that said First Amendment protections for religion couldn’t be invoked to challenge a law if the law itself wasn’t intended to specifically target religion (e.g., a measure like the Equality Act).

Several states and other jurisdictions have their own laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in many areas but responsibly include reasonable religious exemption clauses. By not including such a clause and even forbidding recourse to the religious freedom act, the Equality Act sends an ugly message: Religion doesn’t matter. The law, as the adage goes, is a teacher. And here it would be teaching that regrettable lesson.

Those the Equality Act was crafted to protect are individuals. So are religious Americans. And we have rights, too, ones important enough to have been enshrined in the Constitution. Simply put, the Equality Act as written insults our nation’s foundational commitment to the rights of religious believers.

Without the ability to even appeal for those rights, the Equality Act would put religious Americans in unconscionable positions. For instance, religious hospitals and insurers could be coerced to violate their religious convictions by being required to offer gender transition therapies and to perform gender-transition operations.

Faith-based adoption agencies could be forced to abandon their religious principles and place children entrusted to them with same-sex or transgender couples. In an insult to the religious concept of modesty, dressing room facilities and other traditionally sex-specific spaces could have to be open to any and all. Bathrooms and showers could well become places of embarrassment and fear for many.

Legislative efforts to, in effect, coerce religious Americans into betraying our sincere, time-honored convictions are the very opposite of equality under the law. And without provisions that accommodate religious belief and practice — and without providing avenues to appeal requirements that violate them — the Equality Act would aid those who seek to deny America’s religious heritage and who wish to portray religious Americans as bigots and haters. Such hostility toward religion should not be promoted, even unwittingly, by federal law.

President Joe Biden has eloquently expressed his heartfelt desire to unify a fractured nation. He has also embraced passing the Equality Act as a “top legislative priority.” When the president entered the White House, something of a damper, blessedly, was put on the culture war fire. But forcing the current version of the Equality Act on religious Americans threatens to, tragically and unnecessarily, dismantle that societal truce.

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On immigration, the confusion is coming from inside the White House

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President Joe Biden appears to be confounded by the substance and politics of immigration.

The latest evidence of that is Friday’s laughable-if-it-wasn’t-so-serious White House backtrack of Biden’s walk-back on refugee policy. After promising to raise President Donald Trump’s annual cap on refugee admissions from 15,000 to 62,500, Biden balked on Friday morning. Then, under heavy pressure from fellow Democrats — many of whom had described Trump’s policy as racist, xenophobic and un-American — Biden decided on Friday afternoon to increase the number of refugees admitted into the country.

How many? “His initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement issued late Friday. The policy, she said, “has been the subject of some confusion.”

That confusion is coming from inside the White House.

It is the result of a much larger conundrum for Biden: finding the safe harbor spot on immigration that satisfies his base and doesn’t alienate centrist voters. He’ll never win over hard-line conservatives whose views are represented by a new Anglo-Saxon caucus in the House or more temperate conservatives who prioritize restrictive immigration policies.

But even if he doesn’t seek re-election in 2024, he needs both wings of his own coalition to move his agenda and keep Congress in Democratic hands in next year’s midterm elections.

So far, Biden is not just failing to please everyone; he’s having a hard time pleasing anyone. Less than a quarter of adults approve of his handling of immigration, according to an AP-NORC poll released last week, and the share of Democrats who view illegal immigration as “a major problem” has spiked from 15 percent to 29 percent in the last year, according to the Pew Research Center.

“It’s easy to promise a quick fix in a campaign, but the reality of the situation is it’s a mess and they don’t know how to address it,” a senior Senate Republican aide said of the broader issue. The back-and-forth over the refugee cap “is less an indictment of policy and more a highlight of how complex and difficult this issue is,” the aide added.

While the refugee policy limits legal rather than illegal immigration, Democratic lawmakers and immigrant-rights advocates are eager to see changes across the board after Trump cracked down on both forms of migration.

Biden’s stumbles on the issue come at a time when a surge of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border has forced officials to house children in overcrowded facilities and forced Biden to reconsider his vow to allow asylum-seekers to await adjudication of their cases in the U.S.

Given that Biden’s overall approval ratings remain squarely on positive turf — roughly between 54 percent and 59 percent, depending on the poll — sentiments on his handling of immigration could be insignificant to his standing or a harbinger of trouble ahead. His skittish approach to the issue suggests more concern about the latter than confidence about the former.

Before taking office, Biden said he wanted to reverse Trump’s immigration policies but would set up “guardrails” to ensure that he didn’t act rashly in a way that “complicates what we’re trying to do.” He issued an executive order creating a review of Trump’s policies shortly after being sworn in, but has thus far left many of them in place.

Until Friday, Biden’s Democratic allies had been reserved in their criticism of his moves, hopeful that he will ultimately implement an immigration agenda that more closely approximates campaign-trail rhetoric envisioning “an immigration system that powers our economy and reflects our values.” Then the dam broke with news of his initial decision to leave the Trump refugee cap in place.

“Say it ain’t so, President Joe,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. “This Biden Administration refugee admissions target is unacceptable.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a leader of House progressives, accused Biden of having “broken his promise to restore our humanity” and called the 15,000 cap “harmful, xenophobic and racist.”

One Latino-rights advocate who has been in discussions with White House officials on immigration policy told NBC News last month that the administration did not appear to have a plan on the issue. The advocate spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering allies in the White House. But activists have had to lean on their faith in Biden’s intent to reverse Trump’s policies as they wait for action.

Democratic officials’ response to the initial refugee cap decision is a sign that their patience is fleeting.

“We can’t allow refugees and asylum-seekers to sit and suffer because of Washington politics,” Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said. “I’m glad the administration has reversed course on lifting the refugee cap. It should be done immediately and up to the target promised.”

Biden’s timidity reflects confusion over how to line up his stated policy goals with his political interests.



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Tories braced for loss of 550 council seats at 'Super Thursday' local elections

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SENIOR Tories are braced for a loss of 550 council seats at the “Super Thursday” local elections next month.

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End reliance on EU! UK must become self-reliant to avoid being at bloc's mercy on vaccines

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THE recent vaccine wrangle underlines why the UK must also end its reliance on goods imported from the EU, Brexiteer Jayne Adye has said.

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