President Trump signed an executive order this week establishing a new White House office focused on religious freedoms. The order establishes the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which will focus on the expression of religion, as well as protections for religious organizations.
The order calls on the office to provide recommendations on administration policy affecting faith-based and community programs, provide recommendations on programs where faith-based organizations may provide effective solutions to problems such as poverty and inform the administration when it fails to comply with religious liberty protections under the law.
The office is also intended to reduce the burdens on the exercise of free religion.
It will be led by a newly created position of Advisor to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative and be supported by faith and community leaders from outside of government. Executive departments that do not have Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives will designate a liaison to the Office.
“Faith has shaped our families, and it’s shaped our communities. It’s inspired our commitment to charity and our defense of liberty. And faith has forged the identity and the destiny of this great nation that we all love,” the President said during a ceremony in the Rose Garden yesterday.
“Our country was founded on prayer. Our communities are sustained by prayer. And our nation will be renewed by hard work, a lot of intelligence, and prayer.”
“We are proud of our religious heritage. And as President, I will always protect religious liberty,” he added.
Defending religious expression was a campaign promise of President Trump’s. Last year, on the National Day of Prayer, he signed an executive order that allows the IRS to opt out of enforcing the Johnson Amendment, a provision that prohibits nonprofit-religious groups and charities from “directly or indirectly” engaging in a political campaigns.
That order also allowed churches and other religious groups relief from mandates under Obamacare that required organizations to provide contraceptive care to its employees against their religious beliefs. A court case involving the Little Sisters of the Poor and their challenge to the law’s mandate went all the way to the Supreme Court.
The Court eventually vacated a ruling by a lower court calling on the Little Sisters to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees and ordered the parties to reach a compromise.
Photo courtesy of The White House