Can Trump's Religious Freedom Executive Order Be Blocked?

by Jessicah Lahitou
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

One of the most controversial subjects in America today is the question of when religious freedom becomes discrimination. This is not a new issue — it's been with the United States since the Revolution. But the tension between the Constitution's protection of religious practice and its guarantee against discrimination has come into new light over the issue of LGBT rights. And with today's signing of a new religious freedom executive order, President Trump may have overstepped the legal boundary. And as with previous executive orders that were unconstitutional, the court system can block Trump's religious freedom executive order.

Trump's newest executive order was met with swift criticism by Americans and civil rights organizations alike. Women's groups like NARAL and the Center for Reproductive Rights responded with outrage on Twitter, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quickly tweeted at President Trump, "we will see you in court, again."

The ACLU had issued a statement even before the order was signed, based on a leaked draft that was reported on in February. Pledging their commitment to upholding the law and protecting against discrimination, Louise Melling, the ACLU's deputy legal director, stated:

The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate against or harm others. If President Trump signs an executive order that attempts to provide a license to discriminate against women or LGBT people, we will see him in court.

Considering their long list of court wins, the ACLU is not an organization anyone wants to go up against in a courtroom. And it is not alone challenging Trump's religious freedom executive order in court. Lambda Legal previously indicated that it's also preparing to sue the administration if the document contains protections for discrimination against LGBT people.

Outside of the judicial system, there are only two other ways of stopping an executive order. One is for the president to revise or edit a previous order, a move that seems highly unlikely in this case. The second is a congressional override, an event that is historically rare and would be difficult to pull off in any case. Technically, Congress can vote to repeal or change a presidential executive order, but their ruling then becomes subject to presidential veto. It's difficult to imagine under what circumstances Trump — or any POTUS — would shrug off such a move. And since Congress needs a two-thirds vote majority to supersede a president's veto, the odds of both chambers keeping the president in check are very low.

Thus, it falls to the legal sphere to bring challenges to sweeping presidential power. And it looks like there will be plenty brought against Trump's religious freedom executive order.