President Donald Trump has done much to protect Americans’ religious freedom.
He signed Executive Order 13798 in 2017 promoting free speech and religious liberty. Among other things, the order provided regulatory relief for Obamacare’s burdensome contraception mandate. The order cited the Hobby Lobby case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forcing closely held corporations to comply with this mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created the Conscience and Religious Freedom division in 2018. Health care professionals who oppose killing unborn babies, performing “gender reassignment” surgery, participating in “assisted suicide,” or any other objectionable procedures may refuse to participate based on religious beliefs or conscience.
The U.S. Department of Justice created the Religious Liberty Task Force in 2018 to protect religious individuals and groups whose beliefs conflict with government regulations.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the Trump administration has offered support to churches burdened with state and local executive actions. Attorney General William Barr issued a letter to prosecutors urging them to be diligent in protecting Americans’ constitutional rights. The DOJ issued letters of support in cases where churches have sued the government to protect their rights.
Now the Trump administration has added more protections for religious Americans.
The U.S. Department of Labor this week issued new religious freedom guidelines to protect faith-based organizations and put them on equal footing with secular organizations, in compliance with Executive Order 13798.
The DOL warned agencies that “any grant rule or policy that penalizes or disqualifies a religious organization from the right to compete for a grant or contract because of that organization’s religious character could violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), or governing DOL regulations. A rule or policy that imposes a substantial burden on an organization’s exercise of religion may also, depending on the circumstances, violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Gregory S. Baylor said that religious beliefs “motivate many Americans to help their neighbors in need, and these individuals and organizations shouldn’t be forced to abandon their religious character or mission before partnering with the government. The Department of Labor’s new guidance affirms the value of religious liberty but goes one important step further to make these protections real and concrete.”
These executive actions are invaluable to Christians, but they are not laws. The next president may not care about protecting the freedoms the founders enshrined in the Constitution and will rescind these orders. That’s why Christians must be vigilant about protecting their rights. The First Amendment guarantees not only freedom to worship but to live our faith.