USDA Enacts Policy Allowing Anti-LGBT Materials

Back in May, Agriculture Sec. Sonny Purdue issued a letter allowing the posting of anti-LGBT materials at USDA-inspected plants. This week that policy went into effect.

Tony Perkins, of course, is thrilled:

The Family Research Council praised policy guidance released today by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service that makes clear the agency will protect religious freedom and will not discriminate against anyone based on their beliefs regarding marriage and sexuality.

The guidance, titled “First Amendment and Religious Beliefs: Questions and Answers,” states that “[o]pinions about same-sex marriage, gender identity, and sexual morality are all matters of public importance… USDA respects the First Amendment rights of USDA personnel, as well as non-USDA personnel working at facilities inspected by USDA, to share their varying viewpoints on these topics, whether through oral discussion, the display or distribution of literature, or other means.”

This guidance resolves threats made by USDA inspectors against the Vander Boon family who owns a Michigan meat packing facility. Nearly two years ago, inspectors threatened to shut the family’s business down, displacing 45 employees, if they place religious material concerning marriage in the breakroom of the business.

This welcome policy development follows up on Secretary Perdue’s Policy Statement on the First Amendment, and a subsequent memorandum explaining that policy, stating that “USDA employees must act to avoid the limiting or chilling of protected speech” in facilities inspected by the USDA.