NEW YORK – Three civil rights groups filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging President Donald Trump's executive order that prohibits federal agencies, contractors and grant recipients from offering certain diversity training that the president deems “anti-American."
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed the complaint in federal court in Washington, D.C., along with the National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance. The lawsuit argued that Trump's order violates free speech rights and strangles workplace attempts to address systemic race and sex discrimination.
The National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance both have federal contracts and plan to apply for future ones.
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,” the groups argued in the complaint.
Trump’s executive order, signed last month, called out workplace trainings that explore deep-seated racism and privilege that the administration says could make white workers feel “discomfort” or guilt. The president ordered the Labor Department to set up a hotline to investigate complaints about training sessions that Trump has called “anti-American” and “blame-focused.”
Trump has said he is targeting training based on “critical race theory,” the idea that racism has permeated American history and institutions. At the first presidential debate, Trump said such training is “teaching people to hate our country.”
The directive uses a 55-year-old presidential order spurred by the Civil Rights Movement that sought to ban discriminatory practices at companies that contract with the federal government. Critics say Trump's order twists President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 initiative into vehicle for white grievances.
“The executive order smacks of a totalitarian endorsement of white supremacy,” Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League said at a virtual press conference.