The White House

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen addressed attendees of a National Day of Prayer event outside the White House on Thursday.

Shortly before introducing President Donald Trump, Pence bragged of the president's accomplishments, saying:

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Religious Liberty Summit at the Department of Justice July 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On Monday, July 30, 2018, the Trump administration's Department of Justice held a Religious Liberty Summit. Under the guidance of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the event hosted the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian advocacy group, and Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple in violation of the state's nondiscrimination law.

According to AG Sessions,

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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30, 2017: President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump attend the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting held by the National Park Service at the White House Ellipse. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

President Trump keeps Tweeting “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” and saying he “led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase.” But is it true?

The “war on Christmas,” a phrase invented by Bill O'Reilly in 2004, designates the holiday as endangered, with even “Merry Christmas” banned, and calls the Christian faithful to fight to defend it. Despite evidence showing no laws infringing on any individual's rights to celebrate Christmas, the phrase remains a rallying cry for conservative Christians.

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[DIGEST: IFLS, Science, Atlantic (1, 2), Denver Post]

We live in an age in which “alternative facts” are given equal respect — and disproportionate influence. So it follows that “alternative science,” or pseudoscience, is fast becoming an accepted version of reality. Often peddled by celebrities, including Jenny McCarthy and Gwyneth Paltrow, this alternative science — that is, science based solely on opinion supported by no evidence or proof — is gaining influence and demanding equal access.

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Supporters of gay marriage rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that states must list married same-sex couples on their children’s birth certificate. The per curiam decision (which means it was the decision of the court, acting as a unit) reaffirmed the Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. LGBT rights advocates hailed the ruling as a confirmation that Obergefell protects all rights relating to marriage, not simply the recognition of marriage itself.

The case concerns an Arkansas law about birth certificates which treats married opposite-sex couples differently from same-sex ones. The state permits the husband of a married woman to be automatically listed as the father even if he is not the genetic parent. Same-sex spouses are not extended the same courtesy.

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A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” signals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination, even by private companies and religious organizations.  The draft order cites religious belief as grounds for its broad application: “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.” President Donald Trump may  reveal the order or some version of it at the National Prayer Breakfast currently underway.

The draft order takes direct aim at the LGBT community, effectively nullifying many if not most of their existing protections. Earlier this week, the White House announced there were no plans to repeal President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting federal contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination. But Ira Lupu, professor emeritus at  George Washington University Law School and an expert on the Constitution’s religion clauses and on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), notes that the draft order’s language “privileges” certain beliefs about sexual orientation and sexual identity that identified most closely with conservative Catholics and evangelicals. That, he points out, oversteps what existing law such as RFRA (the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act) might authorize, and it may violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

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Last week, with little fanfare, a bill was introduced into the Wyoming state legislature. House Bill 135, also called the Government Nondiscrimination Act, would legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community, so long as the discrimination is done for religious or “moral” reasons.

The act is sponsored by three Republican representatives and two Republican senators.

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