Oct 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Civil rights groups sue over Trump order banning anti-racism trainings

Profile of Donald Trump

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday that challenges President Trump's executive order banning federal agencies, grantees and contractors from offering diversity trainings that the administration views as "anti-American."

Driving the news: The order, issued last month, says that trainings "that promotes race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating" promote "divisiveness in the workplace and distract from the pursuit of excellence and collaborative achievements in public administration."

  • Among concepts the order defines as "divisive" are those that teach that the U.S. "is fundamentally racist or sexist" and "an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex."
  • At the first presidential debate, Trump said such diversity trainings direct "people to hate our country.”
  • Civil rights groups immediately condemned the president's order, calling it "ill-conceived and harmful."
  • There have been several reports of universities, federal agencies and contractors dropping diversity trainings to comply with the order.

What they're saying: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of the the National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance, said in the complaint that Trump, Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and the Department of Labor violated the Constitution's First and Fifth Amendments by issuing and implementing the order.

  • "The Order strikes at the heart of those critical efforts by government and nongovernment actors—including trainings and other forms of private speech in the workplace—to eradicate race and sex stereotyping and other continuing manifestations of entrenched discrimination and bias against people of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals," the complaint reads.
  • "The depth and scope" of the executive order's "constitutional flaws are alarming and, if left unremedied, will erode the core principles of our democracy and the foundations of our pluralistic society," it added.
  • The executive order "unconstitutionally forces Plaintiffs to choose between censoring speech on these important issues or forfeiting any opportunity to enter into a federal contract for the provision of goods or services or to receive federal funds as a grant recipient."

Go deeper: Read the complaint.

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