Attorney General Jeff Sessions Issues Religious Liberty Protections Guidance Allowing Religious Exemptions From Federal Law; Guidance Possibly Limits Protection From Discrimination Against Women And LGBT Individuals
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance to all federal government agencies on October 6, 2017 allowing for “persons and organizations” to “act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.”
This guidance also allows a person, group, or organization to refuse services or protections to another person, group, or organization based on religious values.
For example, the Federal Department of Health and Human Services has immediately issued two rules that exempt healthcare providers and insurance companies from “providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral convictions.” In other words, healthcare providers and insurance companies will now be allowed to “deny women insurance coverage for contraception” or related care and procedures based on this religious belief exemption, even if the patient does not share those same beliefs.
As another example, “clerks with the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs who do not agree with same-sex marriage could refuse, under this guidance, to process paperwork to provide benefits to a widow in a same-sex marriage.”