The Equality Act Poses a Danger to the Rights of Religious Americans

March 3 2021

Last week the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, which would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to forbid discrimination not only on the basis of sex, race, and religion, but also on that of sexual orientation and “gender identity.” It now awaits approval by the Senate. But the act goes well beyond, say, forbidding a shop from firing a salesclerk because he is a homosexual. Avi Shafran argues that its broad scope, and the fact that it cuts off avenues of appeal, poses a clear threat to religious freedom:

The Equality Act . . . would override the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gives people a way to challenge government requirements that they feel impinge on their religious rights. . . . Without the ability even to appeal for those rights, the Equality Act would put religious Americans in unconscionable positions. For instance, religious hospitals and insurers could be coerced into violating their religious convictions by being required to offer sex-change therapies and to perform sex-change operations.

Faith-based adoption agencies could be forced to abandon their religious principles and place children entrusted to them with same-sex or transsexual couples. In an insult to the religious concept of modesty, dressing room facilities and other traditionally sex-specific spaces could have to be open to any and all. Bathrooms and showers could well become places of embarrassment and fear for many.

Legislative efforts to, in effect, coerce religious Americans into betraying our sincere, time-honored convictions are the very opposite of equality under the law. And without provisions that accommodate religious belief and practice—and without providing avenues to appeal requirements that violate them—the Equality Act would aid those who seek to deny America’s religious heritage and who wish to portray religious Americans as bigots and haters. Such hostility toward religion should not be promoted, even unwittingly, by federal law.

Read more at NBC News

More about: Freedom of Religion, RFRA, Transsexuals, U.S. Politics

Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy