Colorado split on President Trump’s religious liberty order

DENVER -- A presidential executive order expanding religious liberty is continuing to deepen the divide between conservatives and liberals.

Colorado groups on both sides of the issue are playing major roles in the debate over religion, health care and politics.

A big part of the executive order signed by President Donald Trump provides relief to employers who object to Obamacare contraception requirements.

Many people of faith say preventing conception violates their moral conscience.

Standing alongside Denver’s Little Sisters of the Poor on Thursday, Trump sent a clear message of having a hands-off approach when it comes to religion -- placing faith over women’s health.

“I think it was a very encouraging first step,” said Jenny Kraska of the Colorado Catholic Conference.

Kraska leads Colorado’s statewide lobbying arm of the Roman Catholic Church. She’s anxious to see how the order will play out in reality because, currently, the order only directs agencies to change regulations.

The order does not change regulations on its own.

“We will have to see what the regulations actually look like when they’re written,” Kraska said.

In a state split on the issue, those on the other side, at NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, said women should not have to limit their employment choices based on contraception coverage.

“We should be free from any religious affiliation in our workplace,” said Karen Middleton of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

The order provides regulatory relief for religious and nonreligious organizations that do not want to provide birth control coverage.

It allows religious leaders to do something many have done for years -- talk politics from the pulpit. The order stops short of allowing tax-exempt places of worship from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

“Look at our Constitution,” Middleton said. “We’ve separated church and state for a reason.”

American Civil Liberties Union officials said they will not be suing the president over Thursday’s executive order because they believe it has no “discernable policy outcome.”

They called Thursday’s signing an “elaborate photo-op.”