President Trump signs a modified
Order on religious freedom:
2017-MAY-04: President Trump signed the Executive Order:
Many religious leaders assembled in the White House's Rose Garden on MAY-04. This was the first Thursday in May, and is also the National Day of Prayer. The theme of the Day of Prayer was: "For Your Great Name’s Sake! Hear Us... Forgive Us...Heal Us!" The sub-theme "Heal Us" is particularly meaningful at this time because national and Congressional debates are in full swing over health care reform.
The group prayed with President Trump immediately before he signed the Executive Order.
Two representatives from a Roman Catholic group, the Little Sisters of the Poor were present. Their organization had earlier experienced a conflict with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It requires agencies who wish to be exempted from the contraceptive requirements of ACA to simply send a letter to the federal Health and Human Services requesting such exemption. The Little Sisters refused to do this, because they felt that, if they sent such a letter, they would be taking an action that would eventually cause their employees to have the freedom to choose whether to obtain free contraceptives under their insurance plan. The Roman Catholic Church of which the Little Sisters is a part, considers the use of artificial contraceptives to be a mortal sin.
When President Trump signed the Executive Order, he pledged to:
"... vigorously promote religious liberty. ... We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. And we will never ever stand for religious discrimination. Never ever." 2
Unfortunately, the term "religious discrimination" is ambiguous:
- Historically it meant restrictions on the freedom of religious individuals and groups to hold religious beliefs, to assemble freely with others, to proselytize, etc. This form of discrimination is already very effectively prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- The new meaning of "religious discrimination" is the freedom of individuals and groups to convert their religious beliefs into religiously motivated acts which can discriminate against, and denigrate minorities.
President Trump declared that his administration would be "leading by example" about religious liberty in the U.S. He said that:
"We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. ... We are giving our churches their voices back" 3
Michael Coren, writing for the Toronto Star, said:
"At precisely the same time as the president was boasting of religious liberty, and welcoming sadly bewildered elderly nuns to the stage, his party and supporters just down the road from The White House were preparing to vote to remove health-care coverage to millions of Americans and to make life even more difficult for those with pre-existing medical conditions. It’s a shameful and tragic juxtaposition, and I pray to God that it changes." 4
2017-MAY-04: The text of the executive order as signed by President Trump:
The text of the Executive Order had been modified from the February version, that had previously been leaked to the media. The Order, as signed, states:
"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to guide the executive branch in formulating and implementing policies with implications for the religious liberty of persons and organizations in America, and to further compliance with the Constitution and with applicable statutes and Presidential Directives, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. 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. Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government. The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections.
Sec. 2. Respecting Religious and Political Speech. All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech. In particular, 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, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury. As used in this section, the term "adverse action" means the imposition of any tax or tax penalty; the delay or denial of tax-exempt status; the disallowance of tax deductions for contributions made to entities exempted from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of title 26, United States Code; or any other action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit, or benefit.
Sec. 3. Conscience Protections with Respect to Preventive-Care Mandate. The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate promulgated under section 300gg-13(a)(4) of title 42, United States Code.
Sec. 4. Religious Liberty Guidance. 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.
Sec. 5. Severability. If any provision of this order, or the application of any provision to any individual or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and the application of its other provisions to any other individuals or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.
Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person." 3
Related essays on this web site that you might find interesting:
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- Free image downloaded from Pixabay.
- Kaelyn Forde, "LGBT activists react to Trump's latest executive order: 'We have to remain extremely vigilant,' NBC News, 2017-MAY-04, at: http://www.nbcnews.com/
- Ali Vitali, "Trump Signs ‘Religious Liberty’ Executive Order Allowing for Broad Exemptions," NBC News, 2016-MAY-04, at:
- Michel Coren, "Trump finds religion — for political gain, of course," Toronto Star, 2017-MAY-08, at:
Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted on: 2017-MAY-04
Latest update: 2017-MAY-09
Author: B.A. Robinson
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