During a National Day of Prayer observance at the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump announced the creation of a new office in his administration aimed at protecting Americans’ religious liberty.
The White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative “will help design new policies that recognize the vital role of faith in our families, our communities and our great country,” Trump said at the Rose Garden event.
“This office will also help ensure that faith-based organizations have equal access to government funding and the equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs,” he explained.
“We take this step because we know that, in solving the many, many problems and our great challenges, faith is more powerful than government, and nothing is more powerful than God,” Trump stated.
Among other responsibilities, the new office will be tasked with informing the administration of any failures in the executive branch in protecting the religious freedom of Americans.
An executive order on religious liberty signed by the president on Thursday states, “It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom.”
The order noted that it was the vision of the Founding Fathers that the United States would be a place where people could freely “practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government.”
The order also specifically directs the Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, not to target churches or faith-based groups for speaking out on political issues.
“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,” the document reads.
CBN News reported that evangelist Franklin Graham praised the move, saying, “I’m extremely grateful that we have a president who realizes the importance of prayer, faith, and religious freedoms to our nation.”
Johnnie Moore, an unofficial spokesman for the president’s group of faith advisers, also expressed appreciation for the Trump administration’s actions.
“This executive order is the product of the President’s unwavering prioritization of faith and religious liberty and reflects the smart work of people like Jared Kushner and advisers in the policy and public liaison divisions who met with hundreds and hundreds of leaders and government officials to assess ways in which the government can partner more effectively with communities of faith,” Moore said.
During last year’s National Day of Prayer, Trump — in keeping with a campaign promise — signed an executive order directing the IRS not to enforce the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and nonprofits from “directly or indirectly” engaging in political activity.
That order also granted faith-based groups, such as Little Sisters of the Poor, relief from the regulatory requirements of Obamacare, including the contraception mandate.
In a proclamation issued on Thursday recognizing the National Day of Prayer, Trump stated, “Prayer has been a source of guidance, strength, and wisdom since the founding of our Republic.”
The proclamation pointed out that the Founders captured in the Declaration of Independence the nation’s core beliefs “that all men and women are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Trump exhorted, “On this National Day of Prayer, let us come together, all according to their faiths, to thank God for His many blessings and ask for His continued guidance and strength.”
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