Removal of transgender protection laws violates state/church separation

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is deeply troubled by the Trump administration's recent removal of antidiscrimination laws protecting transgender students.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, the Departments of Education and Justice reversed the federal protections set by the Obama administration, which allowed transgender students in public schools to use the washrooms corresponding with their gender identity. The Trump administration claims Title IX, a federal law banning sex discrimination in schools, no longer extends to gender identity. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an evangelical Christian who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, advocated for lifting the previous protections. Trump sided with Sessions over Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who, surprisingly, expressed misgivings about the repeal because of the harm it could cause transgender students.

The White House stated that the policy regulating which lavatory transgendered students use should be issued at the state level. However, this repeal on national anti-discrimination laws displays an unconstitutional intermeshing of religious ideology with legal policy, which is a federal issue.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called the reversal a violation of discrimination laws. FFRF contends that it is also a violation of the principle of separation between church and state guaranteed in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The argument against laws allowing transgender students to use the restroom of their choice is that the protections "allow men into women's bathrooms," thus exposing women to sexual predators. However, according to two investigations conducted by Media Matters, school districts with trans-inclusive policies had no increases in sex crimes after putting those policies in place.

The Trump administration's recent attack on the civil rights of transgender students shows how it is bowing to the agenda of Christian conservative organizations. One of the most vocal supporters of the new guidelines has been The Family Research Council, a Christian Right advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. The organization is among several theocratic groups that have frontlined anti-trans attacks over the years. Others have included Focus on the Family, Family Policy Alliance, and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Sessions, one of the main officials behind the recent revocation of transgender anti-discrimination laws, indirectly suggested that religious people are closer to truth during his confirmation hearing. He was asked during the hearing if a person who is secular had just as good of a claim to understanding the truth as a religious person, to which Sessions dissembled.

Deuteronomy 22:5 calls men who wear women's garments and vice-versa "abominations." The Trump administration and the religious organizations that support rescinding civil rights protections are legislating false, biblical ideas about gender essentialism and applying it to public policy. In a secular nation, laws must not be molded by church doctrine. All citizens must be equally free from religious oppression. FFRF will continue to advocate for the rights and protections of the transgender community against discrimination rooted in religious bigotry.

READ MORE

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Trump rescinds rules on bathrooms for transgender students

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FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 27,000 members across the country. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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