While the Obama Department of Labor plods through its eleventh year, the Trump Justice Department is steaming through its third.
As I discussed here, the Labor Department is prosecuting compensation discrimination cases brought in the dying days of the Obama administration based on spurious theories long peddled by radicals. In addition, the Labor Department persists in demanding that federal contractors “allow employees and applicants to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.” Not their actual gender, but the gender they pick.
The Trumpian footprint at the DOL is faint.
Fortunately, that’s not true of the Justice Department. First under Jeff Sessions and now under William Barr, the DOJ has moved vigorously to advance the president’s agenda.
The New York Times has it right, for once, when it reports:
Mr. Barr has eagerly embraced the most divisive and disputed aspects of the Trump agenda, much to the delight of the party’s hard-line conservatives who see him as an indispensable ally in their fight to push the country further to the right on issues like religious liberty, immigration and policing.
All cabinet members should be embracing all aspects of the Trump agenda. It’s their job.
Here is a sampling of fairly recent actions by the Justice Department to advance the president’s agenda:
* Earlier this month, it filed a Statement of Interest in a federal lawsuit in Mississippi, explaining that public colleges cannot trample on their students’ First Amendment rights to free speech. The lawsuit is brought by the student organization Young Americans for Liberty and J. Michael Brown, a former student at Jones County Junior College.
College policy requires campus administrators to preapprove all “meetings or gatherings.” Brown alleges that college officials called the campus police when he sought to engage on campus with fellow students about topics such as free speech and civil liberties.
Eric Dreiband, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, stated:
The United States of America is not a police state. Repressive speech codes are the indecent hallmark of despotic, totalitarian regimes. They have absolutely no place in our country, and the First Amendment outlaws all tyrannical policies, practices, and acts that abridge the freedom of speech.
* Last year, the DOJ filed a statement of interest in support of the suit by Asian-American students against Harvard University for discriminating against such students in the admissions process. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, explained:
No American should be denied admission to school because of their race. As a recipient of taxpayer dollars, Harvard has a responsibility to conduct its admissions policy without racial discrimination by using meaningful admissions criteria that meet lawful requirements. The Department of Justice has the responsibility to protect the civil rights of the American people.
* The Justice Department is supporting Catholic Church leaders in Indianapolis who are being sued for firing a teacher in a same-sex marriage. I don’t like to see anyone fired over a same-sex marriage, but I agree with the DOJ that the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion and gives faith-based schools the right not to associate with people whose actions fly in the face of church doctrine.
* The Department of Justice (along with the Department of Education) filed a Statement of Interest in federal court in Maryland, explaining that the Maryland State Department of Education discriminated against Bethel Christian Academy when it excluded the school from its BOOST Scholarship program due to the school’s beliefs regarding marriage and gender set forth in its Parent-Student Handbook. It explained that the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution protect religious schools from coercive government actions that force them to choose between abandoning or betraying their faith and participating in public programs.
* The Justice Department recently sided with Maine families who maintain the state education commissioner discriminated against them by not allowing public funds to be used for their children’s tuition at religious schools. In Maine, some districts do not have a public high school for residents to attend. The state’s Town Tuitioning Program allows public money to be spent so those children can attend neighboring public or private secular schools, but not religious schools.
The Trump DOJ denies the legality of freezing out families who elect to send their children to religious schools. It previously took the same position in cases from Vermont and Montana.
It’s important to note that the Justice Department’s prosecution of cases like these does not come at the expense of the kinds of civil rights cases pursued by previous administrations. The Trump DOJ continues to bring meritorious actions to protect the rights of the traditional victims of discrimination, including LGBTQ Americans subjected to hate crimes.
There is no tension between pursuing the traditional civil rights agenda in a manner consistent with the law and pursuing the additional civil rights goals of the current administration. That’s what the Justice Department is doing under President Trump. Unfortunately, the Labor Department has gone its own, at times radical, way.