Moscow, May 5, 2017
President Trump signed the “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” executive order in a rose garden ceremony at the White House yesterday, May 4, on the National Day of Prayer. The order aims to protect the tax-exempt status of churches that touch upon politics in sermons and to protect citizens who object to various ideas on gender ideology, gay marriage, and contraception, among others, from liberal oppression.
However, religious liberty advocates say the order is not strong enough and does not fulfill Trump’s campaign promises, reports LifeSiteNews.
“Today my administration is leading by example as we take historic steps to protect religious liberty in the United States of America… We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore. And we will never ever stand for religious discrimination. Never ever,” the president declared.
President Trump called the Little Sisters of the Poor up to the stage, saying that “or too long the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs.” Under the Obama administration, the nuns had been forced to pay for contraceptive for their employees, which is a grave sin according to their Catholic faith.
The president went on to emphasize that freedom is an irrevocable gift from God, and no American should have to choose between the dictatorial decrees of the government and the tenants of his faith.
The executive order comes largely as a response to the Christian bakers, photographers, florists, and many others who were persecuted under Obama rule for maintaining their Christian beliefs regarding marriage and sexuality.
A briefing on the new order states that it will direct the IRS to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious leaders from speaking about politics and candidates from the pulpit.” It also states that it will provide “regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby.”
However, many, such as Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, view the order as “woefully inadequate,” recalling campaign promises but failing to fulfill them. Religious liberty advocates have pointed out that the executive order offers no specific relief for Christians in America who are daily under threat of losing their businesses for holding a religious point of view, and that its direction to the IRS to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment is inadequate.
Anderson writes that this is Trump’s second failure to promote religious liberty with commonsense policy. An earlier religious liberty executive order had been leaked to the press in February, and President Trump declined to issue it after a hailstorm of liberal attacks against it.
According to Anderson, “The earlier version ensured that the government would not discriminate against beliefs that are under assault, and protected religious organizations’ right to maintain their mission and identity in their staffing decisions and programming, while not losing the ability to partner with the government.
The previous draft of the executive order also provided specific protections to undo some of the worst of liberal overreach… And it would have protected all Americans who believe that marriage is the union of husband and wife from federal government penalties or coercion.”
However, yesterday’s pledge to “provide regulatory relief” is disappointingly vague, in the view of religious liberty advocates, such as Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor.
“We strongly encourage the president to see his campaign promise through to completion and to ensure that all Americans — no matter where they live or what their occupation is — enjoy the freedom to peacefully live and work consistent with their convictions without fear of government punishment,” he added.