Last week, an executive order was leaked to the media that seeks to provide broad religious exemptions for all Americans. This executive order promotes personal liberty by continuing to preserve religious freedom for individuals, for churches and houses of worship, for schools, for employers and businesses, and for faith-based non-profit organizations.
Yet the leak of the order sparked a protest from special interests uncomfortable with the historic role of faith in wide swaths of American society. As a result, First Liberty Institute, along with other pro-religious freedom organizations, took the lead in informing millions of Americans of the backlash, and urging them to tell President Trump not to let the proposed order be watered down or go unsigned.
As Liberty Watch is posted, the controversy over the order remains unresolved, and First Liberty continues to ask Americans to petition President Trump to sign the entire order.
PAVING THE WAY FOR TWO MAJOR LAWS
“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,” said Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty. He elaborated:
“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.
WHAT THE PROPOSED EXECUTIVE ORDER SAYS
The proposed order would require specific government agencies to give reasonable accommodations for religious freedom for employees, contractors, and organizations. By contrast, groups of people whose rights were threatened under the Obama Administration would be free to function in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Provisions of the order include:
“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.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
As we publish this article, President Trump is considering this Executive Order, which will provide broad religious freedom protections. However, the special interests working to limit religious freedom are seeking to derail, delay, or water down the order.
Please join First Liberty’s campaign to let President Trump know that you desire him to sign the entire proposed executive order—not a watered down compromise—to protect religious freedom.
This executive order is good public policy. We need to let our voices be heard, telling President Trump that the people support religious freedom. As President Trump promised on the campaign trail and as he continues to promise while in office, religious freedom must be protected.
News and Commentary is brought to you by First Liberty’s team of writers and legal experts.
Dear Coach Kennedy,
I would like to say thank you. Your dedication to your faith and your commitment to the positive education of our youth is truly admirable. I am deeply grateful for your military service and for taking a courageous stance in protecting religious liberty rights for teachers and administrators.
If our First Amendment protects a player’s right to kneel in protest, it certainly protects your right to kneel in prayer.
I was shocked to learn that Bremerton High School suspended you after denying your request to continue your wholesome practice of giving thanks after football games.
The Bremerton School District’s actions violate the law and send the wrong message to coaches, young people, our communities, and our nation — a message of hostility to religious freedom and intolerance toward personal religious expression.
Please know that you are not alone in this difficult time — I support you and First Liberty as you continue to fight for religious freedom! Our schools need more coaches like you, our country needs more citizens like you, and our world needs more people like you.✖