USDA Directive a Victory for Religious Freedom, says Family Research Council

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Family Research Council praised policy guidance released today by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service that makes clear the agency will protect religious freedom and will not discriminate against anyone based on their beliefs regarding marriage and sexuality. The guidance, titled “First Amendment and Religious Beliefs: Questions and Answers,” states that “[o]pinions about same-sex marriage, gender identity, and sexual morality are all matters of public importance... USDA respects the First Amendment rights of USDA personnel, as well as non-USDA personnel working at facilities inspected by USDA, to share their varying viewpoints on these topics, whether through oral discussion, the display or distribution of literature, or other means.”

This guidance resolves threats made by USDA inspectors against the Vander Boon family who owns a Michigan meat packing facility. Nearly two years ago, inspectors threatened to shut the family’s business down, displacing 45 employees, if they place religious material concerning marriage in the breakroom of the business.

This welcome policy development follows up on Secretary Perdue’s Policy Statement on the First Amendment, and a subsequent memorandum explaining that policy, stating that “USDA employees must act to avoid the limiting or chilling of protected speech” in facilities inspected by the USDA.

Travis Weber, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, released the following statement:

“I commend Secretary Perdue for correcting an injustice committed under the Obama administration against this family owned meatpacking business. We are pleased that the USDA is as committed to respecting the First Amendment as it is to food quality.

“We thank President Trump who signed the executive order on religious freedom making clear that Americans, like the Vanderboons, don’t lose their religious freedoms upon entering the public square.

“We are also grateful for Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is following through on the president’s executive order by putting federal government agencies on notice: you will not only respect the freedom of every American to believe but live according to those beliefs,” concluded Weber.

Video: Tony Perkins interviews Don Vander Boon