Yesterday was not just the National Day of Prayer. It was the national day of answered prayer for many conservative Christians! After an eight-year war on faith, President Trump finally called a ceasefire on the conflict started by Barack Obama with an executive order on religious freedom. The measure, which was celebrated in a signing ceremony at the White House, was the fulfillment of one of the most significant promises made by the longshot candidate: “to preserve and protect our religious liberty.”
For evangelicals, whose support propelled Trump to a historic win last November, this was one of the most meaningful returns on that investment. Although the order didn’t make it in under the 100-day wire, the quickness of it showed just how committed this administration is to bringing the government back in line with the First Amendment.
Among other things, the directive checks another big box on the White House’s to-do list – lifting the gag order on churches and other nonprofits under the Johnson Amendment. Since the first days of his candidacy, Donald Trump has railed against the 60-year-old piece of tax code that liberals have turned into a club to punish pastors with. For too long, the Left has used the IRS to threaten the charitable status of churches who dared to speak out on the moral issues of the day.
Of course, the irony of this whole debate is that pulpits are free to do exactly that under the U.S. Constitution. It was only when liberals seized on this twisted interpretation of the Johnson Amendment that pastors came under fire for exercising their God-given rights. To the phony claim that churches would somehow turn into mini-PACs, the White House was clear: “Nobody is suggesting that churches are allowed, or it’s legal, for tax-exempt organizations to take out ads endorsing candidates. That’s illegal now,” said an administration spokesman. “We’re not changing what’s legal, we’re not changing what’s illegal…” Instead, the nation’s tax agency is directed to use “discretion” in enforcing the language named after JFK’s successor.
Medical professionals, charities, businesses, and even nuns who’ve suffered under the outrageous mandate of Obamacare will finally have the relief they need to say no to insurance coverage that violates their conscience. After years of court battles, they’ll be free from regulatory harassment of including contraception and abortifacients in their health care plans. But that’s not all the order does. It sets in place a multi-step process that will provide some long-overdue protections by directing the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to develop guidelines for every federal agency to ensure they protect and promote religious freedom. This includes members of our military, who, under the Obama administration, have been systematically silenced and even purged. Men and women like Chaplain Wes Modder (U.S. Navy-Ret.) and Monifa Sterling, who stared down the ends of their careers for their deeply-held beliefs, can finally come out of hiding and live out their faith openly.
Finally, for our friends like Barronelle Stutzman and Don Vander Boon, who’ve suffered for their biblical views on marriage, there’s hope. As President Trump said, “No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith,” President Trump told those of us gathered in the Rose Garden for today’s ceremony. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” the president said. “We will never ever stand for religious discrimination.”
Thanks to this White House, the open season on Christians and other people of faith is coming to an end. And Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) looks forward to building on White House’s progress. “On this National Day of Prayer, I commend the Trump administration for taking action and will continue to make fighting for religious liberty a top priority of my speakership.” As we work with the Trump administration to address the problems created by Obama, it’s that they understand the dangers of the anti-freedom policies of the last administration. But, more than that, they’re committed to undoing those policies and restoring true religious freedom for everyone.
This step today starts the process of reversing the devastating trends of the last decade to punish charities, pastors, family-owned businesses, and honest, hard-working people simply for living out their faith. On behalf of FRC and the hundreds of thousands of families we represent, we offer our deepest thanks to the president and look forward to assisting him in returning America to the land of the free.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.