Catholic World News

Trump issues order to protect religious freedom

May 04, 2017

US President Donald Trump has issued an executive order to protect religious freedom, promising that the federal government will respect the rights of believers.

The executive order, issued at a May 4 ceremony attended by religious leaders of different faiths, affirms the commitment of the Trump administration to protect religious freedom, and vows to find solutions to conflicts over issues—most notably the “Obamacare” mandate for contraceptive coverage—that have prompted religious institutions to file legal challenges to federal regulations.

“No Americans should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith,” the President said at the Rose Garden ceremony. His executive order pledged that federal officials would “vigorously enforce” laws protecting religious freedom, would respect the freedom of church groups to engage in public debate “to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law;“ would “consider issuing amended regulations” for the federal health-care mandate; and would instruct all government agencies to comply fully with the provisions of law protecting religious freedom.

Noting that the executive order was mainly an affirmation of existing law, and only promised to explore alternatives to the contraceptive mandate, some conservative critics observed that Trump had failed to address some pressing concerns regarding religious freedom. A White House official, speaking to the Reuters news service, confirmed that no new ground had been broken, saying: “Anything currently illegal under current law would still be illegal.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, speaking in his capacity as president of the US bishops’ conference, said that the executive order “begins the process” of alleviating religious-freedom concerns. He explained:

In recent years, people of faith have experienced pressing restrictions on religious freedom from both the federal government and state governments that receive federal funding. For example, in areas as diverse as adoption, education, healthcare, and other social services, widely held moral and religious beliefs, especially regarding the protection of human life as well as preserving marriage and family, have been maligned in recent years as bigotry or hostility — and penalized accordingly. But disagreement on moral and religious issues is not discrimination; instead, it is the inevitable and desirable fruit of a free, civil society marked by genuine religious diversity.

Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation was more explicit in his criticism, saying that the presidential order was considerably weaker than a draft that had been circulating in February and then withdrawn in the face of liberal criticism. He noted that the earlier version “provided specific protections to undo some of the worst of liberal overreach.”

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Jim.K - May. 05, 2017 2:20 PM ET USA

    All Bark-No Bite. Trump got lots of headlines while giving Churches nothing!

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - May. 05, 2017 6:00 AM ET USA

    Anything stronger than this would have been immediately stayed by a liberal judge - probably from the 9th circuit. Congress, weak-kneed and largely liberal themselves, will not soon vote to change the laws as they stand. Christians do not have any reason to sigh with relief. Meanwhile, pseudo-religions have been running amok for years with no legal repercussions and I don't believe that will change much.

  • Posted by: feedback - May. 04, 2017 9:04 PM ET USA

    Thanks be to God! But this needs to be permanently solidified for the future, so it doesn't change from one presidential executive order to another.

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - May. 04, 2017 7:39 PM ET USA

    So unlike the President, so disappointing. The issues have been made more complex by the onerous layering over of the simple, straightforward language of the First Amendment by illegal "laws", rogue justices, and liberal madness.