Religious liberty advocates commended President Trump’s new executive order to protect faith beliefs and practice, but some said it fell short of what is needed.
Trump’s order — issued today (May 4) on National Day of Prayer in a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden — says:
— The administration’s policy will be to enforce vigorously the “robust protections for religious freedom” in federal law.
— The Department of Treasury, which includes the Internal Revenue Service, will not penalize a person, house of worship or other religious organization for speaking “about moral or political issues from a religious perspective,” thereby providing relief from a six-decade-old law known as the Johnson Amendment.
— The secretaries of three federal departments will consider revising rules to protect the freedom of conscience of religious objectors to the abortion/contraception mandate imposed by the Obama administration.
The executive order does not include protections for faith-based and other federal contractors who have established their employment practices on a biblical sexual ethic. Nor does it protect individuals and institutions from being penalized by the federal government for acting in support of their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Those types of protections were reportedly included in a draft executive order leaked to some news media in February.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “After years of open hostility toward religious institutions and conscience from the previous administration, this executive order is a welcome change in direction toward people of faith from the White House. Not only that, but many federal agencies are working already to ensure that the executive and administrative violations of religious freedom from the Obama administration are being rolled back.
“The symbolism of mentioning the Little Sisters of the Poor and similar groups [in the order] is also important and welcome,” Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press. “No one should conclude, of course, that this executive order solves the wide array of challenges we face on the religious freedom front. Much, much more must be done — especially in terms of congressional legislation — to ensure that American citizens are able to serve their communities without violating their religious convictions.”
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said he was deeply grateful to Trump for keeping his word.
“He promised me that there would be a strong push for religious freedom protection,” Page told BP in a written statement. “It is important for people to be able to express themselves according to their faith. It’s also extremely heartening to see that he wants to honor the conscience of believers who have serious moral concerns about participating in non-Christian activities.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press