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Donald Trump speaks at the 2016 Values Voter Summit.Andy Parrish / LifeSiteNews

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Trump administration is proposing a rule that would permit government contractors to make employment decisions that are consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs, without fear of sanction by the federal government. If adopted, the rule would reverse an Obama-era executive order that restricted religious federal contractors’ ability to consider employees’ adherence to their faith on matters of sexuality and gender.

In 2014, former President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13672, which added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the criteria against which employers contracting with the federal government could not “discriminate.” On Thursday, the Federal Register published a new rule from the Trump Department of Labor (DOL) clarifying that contractors retain the freedom to make hiring and firing decisions consistent with their religious beliefs.

“Today’s proposed rule helps to ensure the civil rights of religious employers are protected,” Acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella said in a press release. “As people of faith with deeply held religious beliefs are making decisions on whether to participate in federal contracting, they deserve clear understanding of their obligations and protections under the law.” 

The rule follows a pattern of the US Supreme Court siding with the religious liberties of private entities such as Hobby Lobby, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Trinity Lutheran Church against state discrimination claims. A DOL official told Politico that despite these favorable rulings, “many religious organizations were not participating in the procurement process because of concerns that [the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] would not fairly or correctly enforce the law related to the religious employer exemption.”

Left-wing organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) assailed the rule as an attack on LGBT Americans, but Becket Fund for Religious Liberty vice president and senior counsel Luke Goodrich explained the meaning and importance of the rule in a lengthy Twitter thread Wednesday:

The public can submit comments on the proposal until September 16, after which the administration will incorporate feedback and implement a finalized rule.