GOP Tries to Dodge Women's Draft

GOP Tries to Dodge Women's Draft

November 18, 2021

If the states manage to stop the president's vaccine mandate, they can thank Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Together with Donald Trump, no one worked harder to fill the courts with constitutionally-minded men and women than the man heading up the Senate's minority party. Without those four years of record-breaking judicial confirmations, a lot of the checks on Joe Biden's power we're seeing today wouldn't be possible. Historians may have different takes on the 45th president one day, but one thing they can't deny is this: he brought balance back to the courts -- and our country is safer for it.

Ten years ago, conservatives would have never been looking to the courts for relief from government overreach. They were jam-packed with liberal activists who spent every waking hour undermining the plain text of the law. But it's moments like this, Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) pointed out, where the Trump legacy pays off. "We predicted when President Trump was in office how important it would be to have good judges on the bench. And one of [his] greatest accomplishments was working with the Republican Senate to put these circuit court judges on the bench." These are lifetime appointments, he reminded everyone, and look at what they've accomplished.

It was two Trump judges and a Reagan appointment who put the brakes on the vaccine mandate late last week. "We always worry that the other side [has] control of Washington, D.C.," Daines said. "How do we stop their tyranny? Through the courts. And thank God for these good judges that we have [now] across many of our circuit courts."

Because of them, conservatives cheered, Biden's Department of Labor is actually putting the private employer mandate on ice -- for now. In a statement from the agency overseeing the rule, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), indicated they're backing off. "The court ordered that OSHA 'take no steps to implement or enforce the [mandate] until further court order'... OSHA is complying with the Fifth Circuit's stay." That means businesses, who've been staring down tens of thousands of dollars in fines, can breathe a temporary sigh of relief.

In the meantime, Senate Republicans are coming at the mandate -- guns blazing. Using a weapon called the Congressional Review Act, which gives members some veto power over certain agency rules, the GOP is trying to get a simple majority in both chambers to sign onto a joint resolution of disapproval. If they do, they can send the issue back to Joe Biden's desk -- where he could decide to either overturn the mandate, or keep the rule and sentence his party to political suicide. "I'll tell you what," Daines marveled on "Washington Watch," "to get all 50 of us on the same page is a great accomplishment... [W]e're trying to help these small businesses keep their doors open, allowing people to get back to work." And frankly, he said, "I hear more about this vaccine mandate at the moment than any other issue." And no wonder. "It's unconstitutional. It's unlawful."

Like most Republicans, he's hoping there's "one brave Democrat... who's listening to the people they serve back home." And the clock is ticking. Under the Congressional Review Act, the senators have 20 days to get something done. "We have to get this done before the mandate is in place," Daines urged.

For now, the Senate has more than enough on its hands with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Democrats are in for a major fight over their woke new language for the military -- including the Left's bright idea of sending your daughters to war against their will. Women in the draft is just part of the duffle bag of radicalism Democrats want to force on our country, but, as Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) argued, it's by far the most egregious. The idea that the government would "mandate that my daughter -- and everyone else's daughter -- sign up to possibly be deployed to a war-zone foxhole in a future American conflict" enrages the congressman, who's vowed to withhold his vote from any Republican running for a position if they side with Democrats.

In a powerful op-ed, Roy makes the point FRC's own Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin keeps repeating. "This is not a question of whether women can serve in the military. Thousands of women serve admirably in the United States Armed Forces, and we are all thankful for their service and their sacrifice. The question is whether we, as a country, will force the possibility of the horrors and strains of combat upon our wives, our sisters and our daughters..."

A group of at least six Senate Republicans -- Josh Hawley (Mo.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Steve Daines (Mont.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.) -- are frantically trying to hold the line with their own resolution. But unfortunately, a lot of their GOP colleagues are getting bad advice. "Some Republicans have told me that they will vote for a female draft because the GOP will supposedly abolish either this provision, or the draft altogether, when we take power again. Well, okay," Roy argues, "then do it now. But of course they won't. And if we had a dollar for every time we were going to 'fix' something 'later,' we would have settled the national debt by now."

Another excuse Roy keeps hearing is that women would never be drafted in the first place. "This is either a lie or just [shows] an extraordinary level of gullibility," Roy fires back. "The fact is, of course they will be. Democrats literally cannot even call pregnant women 'women.' They don't believe the sexes are different -- at all. [And] individuals who believe there are no differences between the sexes will not hesitate to draft your daughter or put your daughter into combat... We should not be afraid of proclaiming that simple, obvious, consequential truth: ... men are men, and women are women... We ignore it at our own peril, in this matter and others."

If you haven't weighed in on this issue with your senators, do it today. Chip Roy is right. This isn't just about the draft -- it's about basic biological truth. Protect it here -- or watch it erode everywhere.

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Taking Exception with Biden's COVID Inquisition

November 18, 2021

"How long have you held the religious belief underlying your objection?" The tone of the Biden administration's questionnaire template is aggressive and confrontational. The opening inquiry sounds more natural coming from someone with a gun to your head. Yet it is one of seven questions suggested by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force to use when evaluating applications for religious exemptions from the COVID vaccine mandates. Other questions require employees to distinguish the COVID vaccine from others they may not object to, probe their medical history, and imply that religious exercise is limited to worship.

"Even though they've yanked back that template after scrutiny," explained Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner (EEOC) Andrea Lucas on "Washington Watch", "it's not clear whether or not agencies are updating the forms they're using." Before significantly revising the questionnaire, the Biden administration distributed it to all executive agencies and also made it available to private companies. In response, the EEOC posted their own sample accommodation form to their website -- an unusual move, but one they thought was justified by the high volume of questions they were receiving.

The Biden administration's original questionnaire threatened applicants, "to be eligible for a possible exception, you must first establish that your refusal to be vaccinated is based upon a sincere belief that is religious in nature." In other words, the questionnaire assigns to individual employees the burden to prove the sincerity of their religious belief. Oh, and the government will be the judge of what counts as proof -- the same government that created a mandate by fiat after admitting it didn't have the authority.

But the government isn't competent to judge religious claims; that is one foundation of the establishment clause. For the government to reject the sincerity of a religious claim, said Lucas, "the law is very clear you need to have some objective basis to do a very limited inquiry." Just as the government needs a reason to obtain a search warrant under the 4th Amendment, so the government needs a reason to disbelieve a person's religious claim under the First Amendment. This questionnaire amounts to a government fishing expedition for an excuse to deny religious exemptions. "Starting right off the bat with a bad faith assumption about your own employees," argued Lucas, is "the wrong way to go after things." It depicts "hostility to religious employees," something courts don't treat kindly.

Lucas also warned private companies, "if you screw up the religious accommodation process, not only might you incur accommodation related claims, but you can also easily veer into religious harassment claims, religious discrimination claims or religious retaliation claims. So there's a broad array of liability." So why go along with an unsubstantiated edict from an overreaching administration that likely won't survive in court?

By the way, Andrea Lucas shows what government can do at its best. We conservatives often avoid using government whenever possible because we believe smaller government is better. But when it comes to protecting religious freedom in employment, that's what the EEOC is for.

How can employees gain a hearing when your employer refuses to grant you one? Federal employees "should first file an internal complaint within their own agencies," said Lucas, but if they are denied, "eventually they could end up before the EEOC jurisdiction." Federal contractors and private employees covered by President Biden's vaccine mandates "can file directly with the EEOC" using their "user-friendly portal."

For many people, getting the shot is a wise and prudent course. But if doing so would burden your conscience, don't accept the government's stonewalling; they can't deny legitimate religious exemptions to a sweeping mandate.

Biden Takes Aim at Trump's Pro-Faith Policies

November 18, 2021

Elections have consequences. Many of these consequences are obvious, but not all. Some come in the form of less-noticed changes in federal government agencies that most Americans rarely think about. Yet, the actions of these agencies can have wide-reaching effects, touching the lives of average citizens. The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) expected move to rescind a religious freedom safeguard implemented by the Trump administration is the latest example of the damage that can be done.

In the past, under Democratic administrations, HHS earned an unfortunate reputation for antagonizing religious organizations. For example, under the Obama Administration, HHS targeted groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor by compelling them to pay for contraceptives in their insurance coverage, something that goes against their faith.

Thankfully, the Trump administration worked to make clear existing federal laws protecting religious freedom would be vigorously enforced. One way they did this was by creating a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in HHS' Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to ensure that the many federal laws protecting conscience (about 25 are already on the books) were enforced. OCR was also given authority to review violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the First Amendment, which protect the religious liberty of Americans. In one case, OCR took action against a Vermont medical center for forcing a nurse to assist in an abortion against her conscience -- a case that President Biden dropped after taking power.

Yet, the very purpose of OCR is to ensure that its programs comply with all applicable civil rights and conscience and religious freedom protections. Aside from simply not enforcing the law, the Biden administration is now seeking to revoke the authority of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division and OCR to police how HHS protects (or doesn't protect) religious freedom.

Roger Severino, President Trump's OCR Director, saw HHS's systematic assault on religious freedom under the Obama administration and set out to ensure that this could not happen again. He was instrumental in building out the OCR's role in protecting religious freedom at HHS and in establishing the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. Now a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Severino joined "Washington Watch" to react to the Biden administration's attempt to roll back religious freedom protections at HHS.

Severino described his division's role as the "watchdog" specific to religious freedom within HHS. He explained, "Just like every other civil right, we stood up a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division with career professionals to police this right, and [Biden administration officials] are trying to shut this down and reverse it by stripping it of all their authorities. It is shameful."

Notably, the current Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra pledged in his Senate confirmation hearing that he would not do this, promising that he valued religious freedom and would not change the way the OCR enforced of religious freedom protections within the agency. It certainly now looks like he lied about this.

This is hardly the first time Becerra has proven himself hostile to religious freedom. As Severino said, "He was my main antagonist when I was enforcing conscience laws... We found him to be the one responsible for violating the rights of pro-life pregnancy resource centers and also requiring universal abortion coverage again for nuns... and now he's the fox guarding the henhouse. This is nothing more than retaliation against the same office that found him to be responsible for conscience violations."

Indeed, under the Trump administration, HHS went after Becerra for violating the Weldon Amendment, the federal law protecting healthcare entities who don't want to cover abortion from being retaliated against by the government. HHS also acted against Becerra for trying to force pregnancy resource centers to post pro-abortion signs against their consciences.

With a history like this, it's no wonder that Becerra would seek to upend the division that caught him violating religious freedom protections. It was personal.

Let us not forget that revoking the ability for the Conscience Division and the OCR to enforce religious freedom protection will hurt people. More HHS mandates that contradict Americans' consciences and First Amendment freedoms will make their way out of HHS. This is harmful for everyone -- for citizens, for religious institutions, and for Americans' constitutional rights.

The structure and duties of federal government agencies matters, and the people that the president places in these roles matter. It's one of the many effects of elections that go largely unseen until they harm someone, like Catholic nuns who don't simply want to fund contraception in violation of their conscience. The importance of elections is on full display at HHS right now as the Biden administration seeks to undo the good work of Trump's HHS team.