Surrounded by representatives of various faith-based organizations, President Donald Trump signed yet another executive order on Thursday, his first major order regarding religious liberty. The action, which many consider to be long overdue, focuses especially on instructing the bureaucracy to tolerate all faiths in the United States, and show no prejudice in any direct or indirect way.
Though lost in the overwhelming media coverage of the destruction of Obamacare, this order is paramount in the ongoing battle to reverse the devastating policies of the Obama administration to religious organizations.
Much of the order is common sense to the majority of Americans, restating the same values explicitly stated in the Constitution and instilled in all proud citizens:
“It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom. The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government. For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans' first freedom.”
When the President begins to give instruction to other members of the federal government, however, it is made very clear that none of what has become too commonplace in the past will be tolerated. For example, the President demands that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin ensure that no unlawful action is taking place in an attempt to harm or disrupt religious practice:
“The Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective.”
If this were to actually be carried out as intended, Americans would notice quite a contrast of this administration to the last. There have been numerous accusations of the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservatives and religious organizations during the Obama administration. While these scandals were mostly discredited by the Department of Justice, it was the Obama Department of Justice, after all, led by the one and only Eric Holder.
The evidence is widespread against federal agencies who have clearly shown bias against religious organizations in the past. While the IRS may be the most blatantly, other departments are certainly capable, as they are the epitome of Trump’s and many others’ descriptions of corruption. “Adverse action” that Trump refers to, as is later detailed, includes any action taken to mess with the taxes of religious groups or individuals, or delay exemptions. It is indeed a relief to have an administration that acknowledges that tax corruption and bias exists against faith-based groups, and provides a solution by way of an executive order.
The order continues by placing responsibility on the shoulders of some of the executive branch’s most notable leaders, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As the head of the Department of Justice, Sessions is most well known for his strong stance on immigration. In this case, however, he is granted the authority to interpret federal law regarding the protection of religious liberty, and direct his agency to enforce it.
“In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.”
Given Sessions’ record, social conservatives and religious organizations who advocate for First Amendment rights can feel confident about the enforcement of these regulations intended to protect religious liberty and freedom of religious speech.
Opponents of the order have pointed to what they view as a detestable endorsement of religious leaders who have spoken out against same-sex marriage, transgender identity, and pre-marital sex. In reality, all personal beliefs aside, the order far from endorses any particular faith or value present in any faith. Its sole purpose is to protect religious speech in the context of the First Amendment.
The reaction to this executive order is very revealing as to the extent to which social liberals have lost sight of the role of government in their lives. Those who find the law objectionable believe the government should show bias towards anyone who makes statements deemed “offensive,” even though many of us would consider it truth. Regardless of political affiliation or personal beliefs, this sort of view of the government’s role in the lives of citizens is alarming, as the Constitution does not advocate for any regulation of “hate speech,” since the definition of it is open to interpretation.
The bottom line is that the United States of America is dedicated to protecting all faiths under the Trump administration. And it’s about time. Apparently, the entire country isn’t on board due to their infatuation with social minorities who feel they have been persecuted by the truth-speaking Christian Church. Sadly, not everyone is going to embrace this order, as reasonable and common sense driven as it is.
In fact, this order should, in reality, be very bipartisan. Trump never refers to any particular faith, or even suggests that there is one “God” as he has in the past. The order merely protects religious speech and an individual’s right to fair treatment from government agencies. Yet simply due to the fact that it was Trump who signed it, the law will inevitably face scrutiny. However, for social conservatives and evangelical Christians who propelled Trump to the White House, this order is a major victory simply because it finally holds government agencies accountable. With Sessions leading the way, the inherent bias against faith-based organizations in the IRS as well as other government agencies should subside to a substantial degree.
Besides the appointment and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, this executive order could be considered the most significant victory for social conservatives during the new administration. For many, a sigh of relief is in order.