Dozens of conservatives and faith-based groups have signed on to a Council for National Policy letter, urging President Donald Trump to sign an executive order to protect the religious liberty of people and organizations that have been targeted by the federal government for expressing their beliefs on traditional marriage, the sanctity of life from birth to natural death, and other social issues.
“The above individuals and groups, and many others like them, have either been punished by the government for their religious beliefs or are about to suffer under Obama era anti‐religious regulations,” the letter states. “They need protections that you can grant through an executive order to prevent federal discrimination against them for acting in accordance with their beliefs.
“We urge you to take action to ensure their freedom to believe and live out those beliefs is protected from government punishment,” the letter continues. “We, in the conservative movement, stand ready to assist you in your efforts to protect and uphold the freedom of religion in America.”
The letter, with 147 signatories — among them the Black Conservatives Fund, Western Center for Journalism, First Liberty Institute, William F. Buckley Jr. Council, Priests for Life, Students for Life of America, Eagle Forum, and Concerned Women for America — spells out the reasons that an executive order is needed:
- Federal grantees like World Vision, the Salvation Army, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, and Samaritans Purse face the prospect of the government forcing them to violate their faith or give up their role serving the disadvantaged and poor around the world.
- Adoption providers such as Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Charities have been forced out of Massachusetts, Illinois, and D.C. because they are committed to placing needy children with a married mom and dad.
- The Obama administration’s solicitor general declared before the Supreme Court that religious schools that fail to embrace the Court’s redefinition of marriage could see their tax exempt status fall into jeopardy.
- Schools like Gordon College and Brigham Young University Law School have had their accreditation come under scrutiny because of their beliefs about marriage, and the threat of federal action against religious schools remains.
- Service members like Navy Chaplain Wes Modder have been disciplined for counseling according to their Christian beliefs about natural marriage.
- The Little Sisters of the Poor as well as other religious groups and colleges have been forced under the HHS contraceptives mandate to choose between paying crushing federal fines or violating their deeply held beliefs.
- Family business owners around the country have been punished by state and local governments because of their religious views. Earlier this month, the Washington State Supreme Court affirmed the penalties imposed on florist grandmother Barronelle Stutzman for following her faith in the marketplace. She and others like her need to be assured that the federal government will not similarly punish them—whether through tax policy, denial of grants or contracts, or otherwise—because they act in accordance with their beliefs.
- Under a policy issued by the Obama administration’s agriculture secretary, a USDA official threatened to remove all USDA inspectors if West Michigan Beef Company owner Donald Vander Boon didn’t permanently refrain from placing in the company’s breakroom religious literature supporting marriage between one man and one woman that the department deemed “offensive.” The Vander Boons were forced to choose between their religious beliefs and having their plant closed and their employees left jobless.
The letter also praises Trump for his stance on protecting the religious liberty of Americans, including his support for repealing the Johnson Amendment that would restore freedom of speech to pastors.
“For the last eight years, Americans of all backgrounds have suffered the loss of their religious freedoms because of destructive Obama-era policies,” the letter states. “We commend you for beginning to reverse that devastating trend.”