Trump Pushes ‘Religious Liberty’ Myths

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed to defend so-called religious liberty laws if elected and seemingly agreed with a Catholic news host’s false characterization of some contraceptives as an an “abortifacient.”

“Whether it’s the Little Sisters of the Poor or, you know, these private businesses who are religiously motivated, they feel this Obamacare mandate, which demands contraceptive and abortifacient services, as part of insurance … is intrusive,” Eternal Word Television Network’s Raymond Arroyo said in an interview with Trump last week.

“Right,” said Trump, without acknowledging Arroyo’s mischaracterization of the contraceptives guaranteed in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control benefit. “Right.”

Though conservatives falsely claim that some forms of contraception such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and emergency contraception can cause abortions and are thus “abortifacients,” medical authorities, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, say that these forms of birth control do nothing more than prevent pregnancy.

Trump, despite the prompt, didn’t discuss his opinion of the ACA’s birth control benefit. He instead pivoted to a larger discussion of so-called religious freedoms. “Religious liberty itself, taken in the biggest picture, is in tremendous trouble,” he said.

“People that are faith-based are not having, you know, they’re just not having, they’re not being accepted,” Trump said. “It’s almost like they’re not being accepted in our country anymore. Obama has been a disaster, in terms of religious liberty.”

Trump claimed that many religious leaders support him in the 2016 presidential race but won’t endorse him because of the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 provision barring tax-exempt organizations like churches from making political endorsements.

“And I think it’s one of the most important things that I’ll be doing for the evangelicals and for religion,” he said. “So, we’re going to get rid of the Johnson Amendment.”

Though some churches already give political sermons—sometimes explicitly to protest the Johnson Amendment—the IRS rarely investigates, according to a recent article in the Atlantic.

Alan Brownstein, a law professor at the University of California-Davis, told the Atlantic that what the Johnson Amendment addresses is not whether religious figures have the right to a political opinion, but whether the institutions they represent should be exempt from taxes if they participate in electioneering.

“Pastors can say whatever they want, as can anyone else,” Brownstein said. “The question is whether a tax-exempt institution can say whatever it wants and retain its tax-exempt status, and whether the pastor as an official can use his or her position in the tax-exempt institution to engage in electioneering.”

In his interview with Arroyo, Trump discussed his anti-choice positions and reiterated his promise to appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices who oppose abortion rights.

Trump also addressed the growing list of women who have come forward accusing him of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behavior, claiming that the allegations “were artificial” and “never happened.”

When asked about those who might have “lingering concerns” about voting for him given the allegations, Trump once again claimed that his 2005 comments discussing kissing and grabbing women without consent were just “locker-room talk.”

“The microphones, I mean, to be honest, should, you know, should never have been on, but that was locker-room talk,” he said. “And it’s just one of those things. I have it. I’ve said it. I’ve made my apologies, but again, just one of those things.”

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