Religious Right groups are continuing to pile on in their campaign against Chai Feldblum, a civil rights lawyer who President Donald Trump has re-nominated to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As we have noted in recent Bonus Tracks posts, anti-equality activists have been urging Trump to withdraw the nomination.
Feldblum was first nominated to the EEOC in 2009 by then-President Barack Obama; she was reconfirmed in 2013 and her current term ends on July 1. The commission is required by law to have bipartisan membership, with three out of the five EEOC commissioners traditionally coming from the party in power. Trump nominated two Republicans in December at the same time as he re-nominated Feldblum, but that fact has not mollified Religious Right activists.
The Religious Right is so worked up about Feldblum because she has been an influential advocate for LGBTQ equality before and during her tenure at the EEOC. Right-wing groups are particularly upset about her belief that nondiscrimination laws should generally take precedence over the claims of people who say that abiding by them would violate their religious beliefs, and about her work at the EEOC to apply federal civil rights laws against discrimination on the basis of sex to people who face discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Some Religious Right groups, like the Family Research Council, began complaining immediately. FRC’s Peter Sprigg, who doesn’t think conservatives should even use the terms “gay” and “lesbian,” cranked out an “Issue Brief” urging Trump to withdraw Feldblum’s nomination and the Senate not to confirm her.
Anti-LGBTQ activist Peter LaBarbera complained in January that it was “crazy” for Trump to renominate Feldblum. Former Colorado legislator Gordon Klingenschmitt called her “Obama’s worst Gay Radical.”
FRC has kept at it, telling members of its Watchmen on the Wall pastors’ network in February that Feldblum’s nomination is “not just a political or a public policy matter, it is a spiritual matter.” FRC asked pastors to pray for her defeat: “May God wake up his people in America to exercise their rights as citizens and may they urge their Senators to reject this nomination.” Also in February, Perkins called Feldblum “power-happy” and cheered on Sen. Mike Lee for criticizing the nomination in a commentary for the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal.
Last week, the National Organization for Marriage weighed in, with Frank Schubert, the group’s political director, calling the nomination a “disaster” and President Brian Brown calling Feldblum “a radical LGBT extremist.” NOM is pushing a petition to Trump and congressional leaders, urging them to “withdraw or block” the nomination.
This week, LaBarbera appeared on a Christian radio program at VCY, telling host Jim Schneider that Feldblum’s nomination is “a travesty.” LaBarbera said she “personifies this reality that gay rights is destroying our free speech and religious rights.”
On Wednesday, the American Family Association’s reliably anti-LGBTQ Bryan Fischer railed that Feldblum is a “menace to society” who “must be stopped.” Fischer is so worked up about Feldblum that he managed in one paragraph to compare her to both the Spanish Inquisition and Nazi Germany:
There is not an individual in America who holds a more dangerous view on religious liberty than Ms. Feldblum because of the horrific damage she can cause. She is the Dragon Queen of Religious Bigotry, a one-woman Spanish Inquisition, who does not, in fact, believe in equality at all. What she believes in homosexual supremacy. For her, it’s homosexuality uber alles.
The AFA has been collecting signatures this month on a petition urging Trump to withdraw the nomination. AFA’s One News Now has been promoting the petition; an ONN story quoted Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute calling the nomination “reckless and irresponsible.”
The Family Policy Alliance, a network of state groups affiliated with FRC, Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defending Freedom, has its own petition to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. “I understand that the EEOC must have bipartisan balance,” it reads, “but that is no excuse for putting the Left’s top anti-religious freedom champion on this rule-making body.”
Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro railed against the nomination in his Daily Wire earlier this month. “Feldblum should not be anywhere near the levers of power,” he wrote. “And it’s particularly inexcusable for President Trump and a Republican Congress to reauthorize her presence there.”
Since Religious Right groups are Trump’s biggest boosters, some temper their criticism of Trump’s action by suggesting, as FRC did in December, that he must not have been told by his staff that Feldblum is “an arch enemy of his agenda on religious liberty.” NOM’s Brian Brown has suggested Feldblum’s re-nomination was a sign of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s nefarious influence. LaBarbera blames the Log Cabin Republicans.
This isn’t the first time the Religious Right has waged a concerted campaign against Feldblum. When Obama nominated her in 2009, anti-LGBTQ groups portrayed her as an enemy of religious freedom and warned that the EEOC could be the stepping-stone to a Supreme Court nomination.