It would be wonderful if President Trump’s executive orders wouldn’t battle one another. As seems to be the case with everything our new president does, we get great news along with not-so-great.
I won’t diminish the great news. The latest in his series of executive orders is a win for religious liberty. Neither do I believe it attempts to write a new law or extend presidential authority beyond proper constitutional limitations. This EO merely establishes what already is ensconced in the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Let’s rejoice over the following assertions in the EO (H/T to Erick Erickson’s wording on his Resurgent website):
- It tells the entire federal government to respect federal statutes and Supreme Court decisions that make clear the free exercise of religion applies to all people, of all faiths, in all places, and at all times—that it is not merely the freedom to worship.
- It notes that religious organizations include all organizations operated by religious principles, not just houses of worship or charities. And it follows the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in saying that religious exercise “includes all aspects of religious observance and practice,” not just those absolutely required by a faith.
- It instructs all agencies of the federal government, “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law,” to reasonably accommodate the religion of federal employees, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
- It instructs the secretaries of health and human services, labor, and treasury to finally grant relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who weren’t exempted from the Obamacare abortifacient and contraception mandate.
- It instructs the secretary of health and human services to ensure that all citizens have the ability to purchase health care plans through Obamacare that do not cover abortion or subsidize plans that do.
- It instructs the secretary of health and human services to ensure that the federal government does not discriminate against child-welfare providers, such as foster care and adoption services, based on the organization’s religious beliefs.
- It adopts the Russell Amendment and instructs all agencies of the federal government to provide protections and exemptions consistent with the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act to all religious organizations that contract with the federal government or receive grants.
That’s a tremendous list of assurances. As I’ve said, I will give credit where it is due, and this deserves our entire approbation.
So then why did Trump, the day before, allow an Obama executive order to stand that prohibits “discrimination” against gays when giving out federal contracts? While that may sound good to many, what it did was discriminate instead against Christian organizations that seek to aid the poor via contracts with the federal government. Those organizations would have to deny their basic beliefs about sexual morality and marriage before they can have an equal place at the table.
How does allowing that Obama dictate to continue mesh with this new EO on religious liberty, in particular that last provision that supposedly protects religious organizations seeking a federal grant?
Of course, my argument is that Christians shouldn’t try to get federal money at all. Let’s not intertwine our faith with government authority. Let’s not become dependent on funding from government to accomplish what God has called us to do.
Yet, it would be nice if the new administration wouldn’t send out conflicting signals. The message needs to be crystal clear. This whole matter of liberty of conscience is kind of a mess right now in our society.
I’ve noted before that Trump doesn’t really grasp the problem most evangelicals have with the LGBT agenda. He has no real issue with that agenda. We need to continue to pray that his understanding of Christian morality will become sharper over time.