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  • U.S. Department of Labor Announces New Policies to Ensure Equal Employment Opportunity and Protect Religious Freedom

    U.S. Department of Labor Announces New Policies to Ensure Equal Employment Opportunity and Protect Religious Freedom

    Washington, DC - - (August 10, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) today announced two new policy directives focused on ensuring equal employment opportunity and protecting Americans’ religious freedom. The equal employment opportunity directive calls for more comprehensive reviews of contractor compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws, and the religious freedom directive protects the rights of religion-exercising organizations.

    By law, federal contractors are required to take affirmative steps to ensure equal opportunity in their employment processes. OFCCP enforces federal laws that prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and status as a qualified individual with a disability or protected veteran. In addition, contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or that of others, subject to certain limitations. The Agency’s directives provide guidance to OFCCP staff and federal contractors regarding enforcement and compliance policy and procedures.

    Through the directive issued today, the Department announced that it is implementing a comprehensive compliance initiative, which seeks to ensure compliance with equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination regulations in all of its protected groups. As part of this initiative, OFCCP will add focused reviews to its compliance activities, with comprehensive onsite reviews focused on each of the three enforcement authorities OFCCP enforces: Executive Order 11246, as amended; Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended.

    The second directive instructs OFCCP staff – in all their activities – to take into account recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and White House Executive Orders that protect religious freedom. The Supreme Court issued rulings in 2014, 2017, and 2018 that safeguard the broad freedoms and anti-discrimination protections that must be afforded religion-exercising organizations and individuals under the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Additionally, President Donald J. Trump has issued Executive Orders making clear the Administration’s commitment to robust protections for religious freedom, as well as ensuring a level playing field for faith-based organizations to compete for federal grants, contracts, programs, and other funding opportunities.

    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Labor
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  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks at the Alliance Defending Freedom's Summit on Religious Liberty

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks at the Alliance Defending Freedom's Summit on Religious Liberty

    Alliance Defending Freedom's Summit on Religious Liberty, ML
    ~ Wednesday, August 8, 2018

    Remarks as prepared for delivery Thank you all for being here. On behalf of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, I want to thank all of you for your work for and commitment to religious freedom at such a time as this. As President Trump said to the National Prayer Breakfast last year, “freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also…under threat all around us…I’ve never seen it so openly [threatened].” This is a problem around the world. In the Middle East, some religious minorities like the Yazidis and Christians, after centuries of coexistence with religious majorities, are facing the possibility of extinction. In Russia, it is illegal to be a Jehovah’s Witness or to publish their translation of the Bible. In the Philippines, three Catholic priests have been assassinated so far this year. In June, a priest was shot to death at the altar right in front of the congregation. According to Pew Research, 82 countries have “high” or “very high” restrictions on religion. These facts reflect a rise in religious persecution in areas of the world where religious groups have been able to live peacefully together. To avoid such results, our Founders made a commitment to religious freedom that was truly historic—and it remains exceptional today. The Founders understood the evil of religious persecution and violence. They intended this country to be a safe haven where law-abiding people could live quietly, justly, and devoutly. The clearest expression of this idea perhaps came from James Madison and shaped the American consensus. Americans moved from the Locke view of tolerating people’s religious views to respecting and acknowledging one’s right to freely exercise their religious faith. As Madison expressed it: “Religion; or the duty one owes to our Creator,” cannot be directed by government power, and that duty “… is precedent in order of time and degree of obligation to the claims of civil society.” He declared that right, “Unalienable.” The final product—the First Amendment—actually gives religious expression a double protection in the supreme law of the land. Not only do we possess freedom to exercise our beliefs but we also enjoy the freedom of speech. Twenty years later, in 1812, former President John Adams remarked that “nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion.” Adams and Jefferson were political opponents—but they agreed on the human right of religious freedom. But that consensus seems to be eroding. We’ve seen nuns ordered to pay for contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. Senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about their dogma—a clear reference to their religious beliefs—even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. Here in Georgia, there was a religious liberty bill proposed in the legislature. Those moral enforcers, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, were so offended that they threatened to stop filming their movies here. The people of Georgia don’t measure up to the Weinstein standard. And, of course, we’ve seen the ordeal faced bravely by Jack Phillips. He simply refused to yield his beliefs. And perhaps most tragically, I hear that his ordeal is far from over. But that’s why ADF and other groups are right to give serious thought to and to take action on these matters. The people of this nation are still the most religious nation in the developed world. Yet people of faith are facing a new hostility. Really, a bigoted ideology which is founded on animus towards people of faith. You’ll notice that they don’t rely on the facts. They don’t make better arguments. They don’t propose higher ideals. No, they just call people names—like “hate group.” Does that sound familiar? You know I’m from Alabama—the home of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that did important work in the South, vital work at a pivotal time. As you know well, the law is only words on paper until there are people brave enough to stand up for their rights. There were hate groups in the South I grew up in. They attacked the life, liberty, and the very worth of minority citizens. You may not know this, but I helped prosecute and secure the death penalty for a klansman who murdered a black teenager in my state. The resulting wrongful death suit led to a $7 million verdict and the bankruptcy of the Klu Klux Klan in the South. That case was brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center. But when I spoke to ADF last year, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center had classified ADF as a “hate group.” Many in the media simply parroted it as fact. Amazon relied solely on the SPLC designation and removed ADF from its Smile program, which allows customers to donate to charities. They have used this designation as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience. They use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and the constitutional rights of others. You and I may not agree on everything—but I wanted to come back here tonight partly because I wanted to say this: you are not a hate group. You have a 9-0 record at the Supreme Court over the past seven years—and that includes two of the most important cases of the last term. Two of those nine cases were 7-2, one was per curiam, and one was 9-0. In the lower courts, you’ve won hundreds of free speech cases. That’s an impressive record. These are not fringe beliefs that you’re defending. You endeavor to affirm the Constitution and American values. As for me, I am not going to apologize for the United States of America or our First Amendment. I am not ashamed of this country or our people. This is the greatest, most generous country in the history of the world. Let me say this loud and clear: at the Department of Justice, we will not partner with hate groups. Not on my watch. I have ordered a review at the Department of Justice to make sure that we do not partner with any groups that discriminate. We will not partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith. The American people care about this issue. Many people are deeply concerned about it. Americans from a wide variety of faiths are asking themselves, how much longer until I am in Jack Phillips’ position? How much longer until the state, the media, the academy, the tech companies, or the global corporations come down on me because of my beliefs? Fortunately, President Donald Trump has heard these concerns. Unlike some, he is not afraid of the name-calling and the fake news. He has endured relentless media attacks in order to speak up for the forgotten people of this country. He made a promise—and from day one of this administration he has delivered.He is defending religious freedom at home and abroad. Just last week, the Treasury Department sanctioned Turkey’s Minister of Justice and Minister of the Interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest of American pastor Andrew Brunson. Turkey was kind enough to return the favor—and sanction me. Yes, I was informed that they have frozen all of my Turkish assets. President Trump has appointed 24 circuit court judges, more than any other president at this point in his presidency. One out of every seven circuit court judges is a Trump judge. These are judges who will honor their oath to serve under the Constitution and laws of the United States. They are not above them. Shortly after he took office, President Trump directed me to issue legal guidance to ensure that all executive agencies would faithfully apply the religious liberty protections in federal law. Our team embraced that challenge. I spoke about it at the ADF conference in Dana Point last July. I issued that guidance in October, and it lays out 20 fundamental principles for the Executive Branch to follow. Under this guidance, the federal government is not just reacting—we
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  • U.S. Department of the Treasury Reaffirms Commitment to Fostering Internet Freedom and Supporting the Iranian People

    U.S. Department of the Treasury Reaffirms Commitment to Fostering Internet Freedom and Supporting the Iranian People

    March 21, 2018

    Washington, DC - - (March 19, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today highlighted existing guidance to underscore the U.S. Government’s ongoing commitment to ensure that the Iranian people can exercise their universal right to freedom of expression and can freely access information via the Internet. OFAC’s guidance, authorizations, and licensing policies support the Administration’s continued commitment to promote the free flow of information to citizens of Iran – which the Iranian regime has consistently denied to its people.

    “The Iranian regime has demonstrated contempt for fundamental freedoms, such as expression, assembly, and association. By restricting access to satellite services, blocking access to social media sites and apps, and imposing other Internet restrictions, the regime seeks to impede the Iranian people from freely communicating with the outside world and with each other,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin. “The Iranian people should be free to seek, receive, and impart information as they see fit. The United States is committed to empowering Iranians to engage with the world, express themselves, and hold the Iranian regime accountable for its actions.”

    OFAC continues to foster and support the free flow of information to the Iranian people through the following authorizations and licensing policies:

    General Licenses. OFAC has two Iran-related general licenses that authorize the provision of certain hardware, software, and services incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet, such as instant messaging, chat and email, and social networking software and services, as well as certain apps for mobile operating systems, anti-censorship tools, anti-tracking software, mobile phones, and other devices.

    Section 560.540 of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR), 31 C.F.R. Part 560, authorizes the exportation from the United States or by U.S. persons, wherever located, to persons in Iran of certain publicly available, no-cost services incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet and certain publicly available, no-cost software necessary to enable such services.

    General License D-1 (GL D-1), which is broader than the general license in section 560.540 of the ITSR, authorizes the export and reexport of fee-based services and software incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet, as well as the export, reexport, or provision of certain software and hardware incident to personal communications. The Annex to GL D-1 provides a list of services, software, and hardware that are considered “incident to personal communications” and eligible for export or reexport to Iran under this general license.

    Guidance. OFAC has provided extensive guidance on its website on these general licenses, including “Interpretive Guidance and a Statement of Licensing Policy on Internet Freedom in Iran” (describing the authorization in Section 560.540 of the ITSR and OFAC’s policy for reviewing specific licenses in this area) and multiple “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) on GL D-1 (FAQs 337-348 and FAQs 434-443).

    Licensing Policies. OFAC will consider applications to provide products and services outside the scope of these authorizations on a case-by-case basis based on U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. Section 560.540 includes a specific licensing policy for the export of other services and software incident to information-sharing over the Internet, subject to certain conditions. Additionally, GL D-1 also includes a specific licensing policy for the export of other services, software, or hardware incident to personal communications that are outside the scope of the general license.

    As the Iranian people seek to exercise their universal right to freedom of expression and continue to seek access to information via the Internet, OFAC remains committed to engaging with the private sector to provide guidance on the range of activities authorized by section 560.540 and GL D-1 of the ITSR. If you require assistance with interpreting the authorizations contained in section 560.540 and GL D-1 of the ITSR or assessing how they apply to your situation, or need guidance on how to apply for a specific license, please contact OFAC’s Licensing Division online, by phone at 202-622-2480, or by email at ofac_feedback@do.treas.go v.

    Courtesy: U.S. Department of the Treasury
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  • Remarks of FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn - - - as prepared for delivery - - - __Net Neutrality and the Fight for Our Digital Rights__ The Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition

    Remarks of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn (as prepared for delivery)

    “Net Neutrality and the Fight for Our Digital Rights” The Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition

    Washington, DC - - (February 27, 2017) - -

    Thank you Steven, for the wonderful introduction. It is great to be part of today’s conversation on net neutrality, or as I prefer to call it, the “open internet.”

    So what do Title II reclassification, broad forbearance authority, and interconnection have in common? Before you start to doze, let me quickly say, that while these are all concepts contained in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, this is not how people outside the halls of the FCC and Communications Bar, generally talk about their experiences online, or with their broadband service providers. Yet this regulatory minutia is exactly what consumes those of us in D.C. and in academia when it comes to protecting a free and open internet.

    And while it is true, that I have been an FCC Commissioner for nearly eight years now, for me, the very essence of the open internet debate is quite simple: How do we ensure, that one of the most inclusive, enabling, empowering platforms of our time, continues to be one where all applications, new products, ideas and diverse points of view have the exact same chance of being seen and heard by everyone, regardless of class, race, economic status or where they call home? This question was my compass, as I evaluated our 2015 decision, and it is also the answer to why I continue to strongly support these rules.

    While some have described what the FCC did two years ago as “unprecedented,” in actuality, it was just the latest chapter in a long history of efforts to preserve an open internet. Most of you are aware of this, and I will spare the rest of you the detailed history lesson, but in 2004, it was then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell who announced his vision that broadband consumers should be entitled to certain “internet freedoms.” One year later, the FCC would unanimously approve the Internet Policy Statement, laying out four guiding principles designed
    to encourage broadband deployment and to “preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature, of the Internet.” These principles sought to ensure that consumers had the right to access and use the lawful online content, applications, and devices of their choice, and to do so in a competitive internet ecosystem.

    Fast forward to 2015, when the FCC adopted rules to ensure that Americans could reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an open internet today and into the future. These rules were put in place, to ensure broadband providers cannot keep you from accessing the content of your choice or playing favorites with a competitor.

    People might not use the terms, “blocking,” “throttling or even “ecosystem” in their everyday speak, but they clearly understand that if a broadband provider owned their favorite streaming video service and decided to speed up that service while disadvantaging a competing video service with slower speeds, that this is unfair. Or worse, if they actually blocked the competing video services all together or forced them to pay an additional toll for access to those services.

    These are just some of the scenarios that make net neutrality so important when it comes to educating underserved, but deserving communities, improving health and wellness access, improving economic opportunities for underperforming, yet entrepreneurial communities, as well as the continued growth and viability of the internet.

    Getting to this point was not easy, and protecting the Commission’s 2015 Open Internet will not be either. But so many Americans made their voices heard that at one point, with more than four million submissions, they even crashed the FCC’s website! This means, that we are not alone.

    Now the D.C. Circuit did their part by affirming the FCC’s rules. Now it is time for us to once again roll up our sleeves and fight for the protections embodied in the Open Internet Order, that are designed to ensure that the internet remains an open platform, that enables free speech, freedom of expression and the ability for innovation to flourish. The FCC’s recently adopted broadband privacy rules, which give consumers clear notice and robust choice about how their personal data is used must be protected, and orders to stay or turn back the gains we have made must always be challenged.

    If you have heard me speak recently, you know that my motto is putting ConsumersFirst. Whether it is a billing dispute, poor service quality or a violation of the open internet rules, consumers expect there to be a cop on the beat. A light-touch Title II approach has allowed the FCC to be that watchful eye that ensures consumers are protected in a broadband world, and I will not go along with any effort that would rescind the promises we made to the American people to protect and serve them in the digital age.

    I remain grateful to the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition, including the Center for Media Justice, Free Press, Color of Change, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and everyone else who helped to make this event possible. Thank you again for inviting me to be here today, and for giving me the opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to ensuring, that the internet remains an open platform for free speech and freedom of expression in the decades to come.

    Information source: Federal Communications Commission...
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