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Trump's next going to bomb religious freedom in US?

February 03, 2017 12:59 IST

The Donald Trump administration is planning another controversial executive order which if signed by the President will provide individuals and organisations the option to deny services, employment and other benefits to people based on religion, according to media reports.

The draft order titled 'Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom' lays out many of the proposals that conservative Christians have been requesting for years, including legal protections for organisations that claim religious objections to providing a range of services, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Such an order, if signed, would likely plunge President Donald Trump into a debate over religious freedom, gay rights and reproductive rights, which has churned through states and courts for years -- most recently with the disputes over transgender people's use of bathrooms," the report said.

In another report, The Washington Post said the draft order "would provide individuals and organisations wide latitude in denying services, employment and other benefits on the basis of their religious beliefs."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, however, said the administration has no such plan to issue a directive on this issue.

"There is right now no executive orders that are official or able to read out. We maintain that there is nothing new on that front," he said.

"There are a lot of ideas that are being floated out. I mentioned this the last couple days. But that doesn't mean -- part of it is as the President does all the time, he asks for input, he asks for ideas, and on a variety of subjects, there are staffing procedures that go on where people have a thought or an idea and it goes through the process," he said.

"But until the President makes up his mind and gives feedback and decides that that's final, there's nothing to announce," Spicer said in response to a question.

"We have freedom of religion in this country, and I think people should be able to practice their religion, express their religion, express areas of their faith without reprisal. And I think that pendulum sometimes swings the other way in the name of political correctness," Spicer told reporters at his daily news conference.

Trump had last week signed a controversial executive order to suspend the arrival of refugees and impose tough new controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as part of new measures to "keep radical Islamic terrorists" out of America.

Spicer said the President and the Vice President both understand that one of the things that makes the country and this democracy so great, is the people's ability to express their religion, to believe in faith, to express it and to live by it.

"That's where I think the important part is, whether it's a small business-owner or an employee, who wants to have some degree of expression of faith at the company. And too often, those voices get you know, pushed out in the name of political correctness," he said.

"So he is going to continue to make sure that we not only speak up for it, but find ways in which we can keep that line a little less blurred, and make sure that the pendulum against people. We shouldn't impose a religion on anybody. We're free to express our religion or not have one. That's obviously in our country an equally valid way of living your life," Spicer said.

"But at the same time, I think people who want to express their faith shouldn't be ostracised because they want to live that," he added.

Representative Image: Reuters

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