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National Religious Liberty Expert: President Trump’s Proposed Religious Freedom Executive Order is A Fulfillment of Campaign Promises

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February 2, 2017

Washington, DC – Yesterday evening, a draft of a religious freedom executive order purported to be under consideration by the White House was leaked to the media. While anti-religious freedom activists immediately sounded the alarm, Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, says the order will simply implement common-sense protections for people of all faiths, fulfilling President Trump’s campaign promises. 

“As a candidate, President Trump promised to support religious freedom for all Americans. Two specific pieces of legislation he said he would support are the First Amendment Defense Act and the repeal of the Johnson Amendment,” Shackelford says. “This executive order is very similar to the policy suggested in those two pieces of legislation, as well as fulfilling other promises the President made on religious freedom. By proposing this order, President Trump is simply following up on his campaign promises.” 

The First Amendment Defense Act was written after the Supreme Court ruled on same-sex marriage in the Obergefell case. The bill was proposed to ensure that, as Justice Kennedy said in the majority opinion, Americans would still be able to “advocate” for their beliefs about marriage without fear of punishment. The bill, which has 172 cosponsors in the House and 37 cosponsors in the Senate ensures that government employees cannot penalize people of faith for their beliefs on marriage, specifically that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. 

The Johnson Amendment, passed in 1954, threatens to strip non-profits of their tax-exempt status if they speak on political issues or endorse political candidates. A repeal of the Johnson Amendment would affirm that churches, houses of worship, and religious institutions can address political issues from the pulpit without fear of losing their tax-exempt status.

 “Through this order, President Trump is expressing a principle most Americans agree upon: the government should never use what people believe as a weapon to attack them or punish them,” Shackelford says. “If Americans agree on anything, it is that people have a right to disagree in freedom and without punishment. I am grateful President Trump is standing by his campaign promises to defend people of all faiths.” 

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Kassie Dulin, Director of Legal Communications for First Liberty Institute. Email: kdulin@firstliberty.org, Direct: 972-941-4575, Cell: 214-542-4334.

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