Donald Trump is about to become the Abraham Lincoln and the Martin Luther King, Jr. of civil rights for people of faith.
This draft of an executive order is a masterpiece. It is the Sistine Chapel of religious liberty .... It is stunningly and brilliantly crafted and ought to be circulated to every nook and cranny in the United States.
According to a left-wing website, The Nation, the president is circulating a draft of an executive order on religious liberty that will bring civil rights protections for Christians into the 21st century. Its stated purpose is "to guide the executive branch in formulating and implementing policies with implications for the religious freedom of persons and organizations in America."
Christian organizations include even "closely held for-profit corporations, operated for a religious purpose, even if its purpose is not exclusively religious."
It is a perfectly appropriate executive order because it is a directive from the head of the executive branch, the president, to everybody who works for him and under him. Here, President Trump says, is how the executive branch is going to do business under my leadership. He's not presuming to tell Congress or the Supreme Court or the states how to do their jobs. He is saying only that this is how we are going to get the job done in this separate but equal branch of government.
The order states clearly and unambiguously that "The United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental natural right to religious liberty."
It adds the following as a clear statement of Trump administration policy (emphasis mine throughout):
"This Constitutional protection ensures that Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their consciences, and will remain free to express their viewpoints without suffering adverse treatment from the Federal Government. It shall be the policy of this Administration to protect religious freedom."
What must not be missed here is that the Department of Justice and the attorney general are part of the executive branch. From this point forward, the attorney general of the United States will be on the side of those who seek to exercise religious liberty rather than be against them. He will be their friend in the courtroom and not their enemy.
The last eight years have seen the relentless restriction and erosion of the civil rights of Christians in the workplace by the last two AGs. President Trump is saying those days are over. The attorney general will now be the advocate of Christian students and schools and bakers and photographers and florists and businesses and no longer their adversary. The Department of Justice will be defending Christians in court rather than attacking them.
This directive properly treats the free exercise of religion as a right that every American possesses, not just on Sunday mornings between 11 a.m. and noon, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It protects not just freedom of belief or even freedom of worship, but the freedom to actually exercise one's faith in the marketplace and the public square every minute of every day without the interference of the federal government, just as the Founders intended.
"Religious freedom is not confined to religious organizations or limited to religious exercise that takes place in houses of worship or the home. It is guaranteed to persons of all faiths and extends to all activities of life."
No longer will Christians be required to go the back of the bus whenever their values conflict with secularism and the radical homosexual agenda.
They will no longer be required to check their religious convictions at the door of their homes when they head out to open the door of their business. They will be able to run their organizations in accordance with biblical values. They will not be punished because they operate with the conviction that life begins at conception, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that there are two and only two genders.
The federal government "shall not discriminate" against Christian agencies that "provide ... federally-funded child-welfare services, including promoting or providing adoption, foster, or family support services for children." They will now be free to follow scriptural standards and place children exclusively in homes with a mother and a father without fear of punishment from the federal government.
Christian-run businesses and organizations involved in "employing others" will, for example, be able to take biblical principles of human sexuality into consideration in their personnel policies without fear that the federal government will sue them out of business.
The IRS will be forbidden to withhold tax-exempt status from any organization which "speak(s) on moral or political issues from a religious perspective." These issues explicitly include advocating for marriage "as the union of one man and one woman," promoting the view that "sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage," promoting the view that there are just two genders, male and female, which are matters of "immutable biological sex ... determined ... at or before birth," and promoting the view that "human life begins at conception."
In other words, no longer will the federal government punish those who advocate for natural marriage or for abstinence outside marriage, or punish those who argue against the view that people are "born that way."
Christian organizations cannot be kicked off government-sponsored "fundraising campaigns" for speaking or acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. In other words, the federal government will not kick groups like the American Family Association off its donation sites, as the state of Connecticut did.
We read every day of Christians who have been fired from government positions because of things they did or said outside the workplace on Facebook, or, for example, as part-time pastors. Under Trump, that comes to a dead stop at the federal level. No agency will be allowed to punish a federal employee for advocating for their values "while outside the scope of their employment." What a Christian does and says on his own time will henceforth be none of the government's business.
And Christians won't be gagged even at work, say, during breaks, in the cafeteria, and on site before or after work. Agencies will be directed to "reasonably accommodate" religious speech and action even "within the course of their employment."
No one will be prohibited from "receiving government grants or contracts" because their business is guided by Christian principles. Federal agencies "will accommodate the religion of federal employees" and will not "substantially burden ... (their) religious exercise." Christian employees of federal agencies will no longer need to fear harassment and punishment for bringing their faith to work with them.
Individuals who buy insurance on the exchanges must be allowed to purchase a policy "that does not provide coverage for abortion and does not subsidize plans" which do.
It should be noticed that this order isn't about forcing anything on anyone. Any employer who doesn't want to run his business according to Christian principles doesn't have to. But those employers who do will have a friend in this administration.
This draft is a masterpiece. It is the Sistine Chapel of religious liberty. It ought to be bronzed and mounted on the walls of every legislative hall in America, on the walls of every business in America, on the walls of every school in America (especially including colleges and universities), and on the walls of every church in America. It is that good. It is stunningly and brilliantly crafted and ought to be circulated to every nook and cranny in the United States.
This order, it should be noted, directly conflicts with the Obama-era executive order on special rights for the LGBTQ crowd that the White House endorsed on Tuesday. But the plain wording of this executive order is that it supersedes any and all executive orders that preceded it. "The provisions of this order shall prevail in cases of conflict with any existing executive order and with any future executive order."
In other words, if there is a conflict between this executive order on religious liberty and the LGBTQ manifesto from 2014, religious liberty will win every time.
This is an acknowledgement, by the way, on the part of the Trump administration that the conflict between the radical homosexual agenda and religious liberty is a zero-sum game. Somebody wins and somebody loses every time.
President Trump, with this directive, will flip the script. Religious liberty will now triumph over sexual deviancy for the first time in nearly a decade.
It should be noted that this is only a draft version and it has not yet been signed by the president and formally issued. Let's hope it's just a matter of time.
Mr. Trump campaigned aggressively on the promise that if elected he would protect religious liberty. Thank God, it looks like he meant what he said.
Bryan Fischer hosts "Focal Point with Bryan Fischer" every weekday on AFR Talk (American Family Radio) from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. (Central).
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