President Trump’s Tireless Commitment to the Faith Community
Protecting Religious Liberty at Home
The White House
- President Trump signed an Executive Order that directed the Attorney General to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law” in order “to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law” (May 2017).
- President Trump signed an Executive Order, Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which established a faith director or liaison in every federal department and agency to help support our nation’s faith-based organizations (May 2018).
- President Trump signed the Executive Order, Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, which ensured the Department of Treasury will not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization that speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective (May 2017).
- The Executive Order chips away at the Johnson Amendment, a provision in the U.S. tax code which restricts non-profit organizations, including churches, from expressing their free speech.
- It also established the policy of the executive branch “to vigorously enforce the Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom”.
- The Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum to all executive departments to advise agencies on the requirements of religious liberty law protections (January 2020).
- President Trump signed into law, Securing American Nonprofit Organizations against Terrorism Act of 2019, which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security a Nonprofit Security Grant Program to make grants eligible to nonprofit and faith-based organizations for target hardening and other security enhancements to protect against terrorist attacks (January 2020).
- President Trump hosted a state-level dinner for faith leaders (August 2018).
- The President declared January 18, 2018; January 16, 2019; and January 15, 2020 to be Religious Freedom Days.
- The President has consistently encouraged the American people to say “Merry Christmas” during the Holiday season.
- President Trump is the first President to host the National Day of Prayer every year in the White House Rose Garden.
- President Trump has declared several days of prayer, including a National Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey, for America’s Remembrance of the attacks on September 11, 2001, and for Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and our National Response Efforts.
Department of Justice
- The Department of Justice issued guidance on federal legal protections for religious liberty, identifying 20 high-level principles that administrative agencies and executive departments can put to practical use to ensure the religious freedoms of Americans are lawfully protected (October 2017).
- Under President Trump’s leadership, The Department of Justice vigorously defended religious liberty in the courts at every opportunity by submitting amicus briefs in support of:
- Colorado baker Jack Phillip’s right to operate his bakery in accordance with his religious beliefs.
- Students declared ineligible for a scholarship because they attended a religious school.
- The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington’s effort to buy ads on public transportation for its “Find the Perfect Gift” Christmas charitable campaign.
- The American Legion, which helped finance a Memorial Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland dedicated to the memory of servicemen who died in World War I, and against any effort by the American Humanist Association to have the cross removed or changed to an obelisk. The administration’s position was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in a June 20, 2019 decision, American Legion v. American Humanist Association.
Department of Health and Human Services
- Under the Trump Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services published two final rules to provide protections for Americans with religious beliefs or moral convictions in the context of health services (November 2018).
- The first rule provides an exemption from Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage mandate to entities that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.
- The second rule provides protection to nonprofits organizations, small businesses, and individuals that have non-religious moral convictions opposing services covered by the mandate.
- The Supreme Court upheld these rules in July 2020, with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joining the court’s opinion.
- The Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Commerce, and USAID all proposed rules to remove regulatory burdens on religious organizations, and ensure that religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally (January 2020).
- The rule removed a provision made by President Obama that placed referral burdens on faith-based social service providers that were not imposed on other service providers.
- The Department of Health and Human Services formed a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division to propose new regulation that enforces religious freedom laws within existing healthcare programs.
- HHS issued a new conscience rule to vigorously enforce dozens of federal laws protecting the rights of conscience in health care, and is defending the rule against court challenges in New York and San Francisco.
- The Department of Health and Human Services revised rules issued under Obamacare that had potentially forced doctors to perform abortions or gender transition surgeries, specifying that they would not be enforced in violation of federal statutes that protect religious freedom and conscience rights.
- Under the Trump administration, HHS has proposed to amend midnight Obama-era regulations that had governed all HHS grants and had forced faith-based foster-care and adoption organizations to choose between participating in state programs or violating their beliefs.
Department of Labor
- The Department of Labor proposed a rule to protect employers’ ability to hire consistent with their religious beliefs. The proposed rule states that the Federal government should provide the broadest protection of religious exercise recognized by the Constitution and other laws, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (August 2019).
Small Business Administration
- In response to President Trump’s signing of Executive Order 13798 “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” on May 4, 2017, SBA has added language to all agency Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) which states that religious organizations are entitled to compete for Federal financial assistance (grants and/or cooperative agreements) used to support government programs.
Protecting International Religious Liberty
- President Trump signed the Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom that prioritizes religious freedom and ensures the advancement of religious liberty as a core tenet of American diplomacy (June 2020).
- Under the Executive Order, the United States will prioritize religious freedom in foreign aid programs and use other economic tools to help advance these goals.
- The Executive Order directs U.S. Ambassadors and Foreign Service Officers to promote, defend, and support religious freedom.
- At President Trump’s direction, the State Department will coordinate with USAID to ensure at least $50 million per year is allocated for programs that advance international religious freedom (which was increased from $27 million in 2019).
- The Administration established a “Special Watch List” and economic tools to combat countries that have engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom.
- Since its signing, U.S. foreign assistance has provided over $400 million for activities that support religious and ethnic minorities across the Middle East region. (July 2020)
- President Trump signed into law the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which condemns the systematic use of indoctrination camps, forced labor, and intrusive surveillance to eradicate the ethnic identity and religious beliefs of Uyghurs and other minorities in China (June 2020).
- President Trump hosted 30 survivors of religious persecution in the Oval Office in conjunction with the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom (July 2019).
- President Trump released $50 million in stabilization assistance for Syria to protect persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, and advance human rights (October 2019).
- President Trump was the first U.S. leader to host the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom at the U.N. General Assembly, calling on leaders to bring an end to religious persecution (September 2019).
- President Trump signed into law the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act in December 2018, which directed aid to the Middle East, reaching Christians and other religious minorities and to authorizing the government to directly fund faith-based groups and other nongovernmental organizations working in the region (December 2018).
- The Trump administration’s first year in office recognized the importance of international religious freedom as a U.S. national security interest, including it in the 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States, as a violence and discrimination against religious groups by governments and rival faiths reached new highs across the globe. (July 2017)
Defending Life at all Stages
- President Trump delivered remarks at the March for Life rally, where hundreds of thousands of pro-life leaders and activists attended, making him the first President in history to address the March for Life (January 2020).
- President Trump addressed pro-life supporters at the 45th annual March for Life via live satellite from the White House Rose Garden (January 2018).
- President Trump’s Administration took action to prevent Title X family planning funds from supporting the abortion industry by prohibiting referral for abortion as a method of family planning and improving transparency among program recipients (July 2019).
- President Trump repeatedly called on Congress to end late term abortions.
- The Department of Health and Human Services rescinded an Obama-era guidance that prevented states from taking certain actions against abortion providers, in a move intended to protect workers on religious grounds after years of the federal government forcing healthcare workers to provide abortion services (January 2018).
- Shortly after taking office, President Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy, ensuring that taxpayer money is not used to fund abortion globally (January 2017).
- The State Department took additional action, by no longer providing global health funding to foreign groups that financially support other organizations that provide or promote abortions
- President Trump ended HHS funding for new medical research using human fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions, unless authorized by an ethics advisory board (June 2019).
- President Trump ended taxpayer funding for the U.N. Population Fund, in response to UNFPA’s role in supporting programs such as coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization (April 2017).
- President Trump expressed strong support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have stopped late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy – the point at which science indicates that an unborn child can experience pain.
Putting Parents and Faith Back in Education
- In the Oval Office among parents and students, President Trump announced that his Department of Education updated guidance to make it clear that public schools must allow students to freely read religious texts or pray during recess and other non-instructional periods, organize prayer groups, and express their religious beliefs in their assignments (January 2020).
- The Department of Education proposed Education Freedom Scholarships that would allow states to provide scholarships for students for a variety of purposes, including tuition expenses at faith-based or secular private schools, homeschooling expenses, tutoring, apprenticeships, and summer school.
Combatting Human Trafficking
- President Trump signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which tightens criteria for whether countries are meeting standards for eliminating trafficking (January 2019).
- President Trump also signed the Abolish Human Trafficking Act which strengthened programs supporting survivors and resources for combating modern slavery (December 2018).
- President Trump directed the State Department to cut off development aid to nations that do not demonstrate a commitment to ending human trafficking in their own countries (2018).
- Under the Trump Administration, the Department of Justice dismantled an organization that was the internet’s leading source of prostitution-related advertisements resulting in sex trafficking (April 2018).
- President Trump signed an Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking (February 2017). The Executive Order:
- strengthens the enforcement of Federal law in order to combat transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations.
- ensures that Federal law enforcement agencies give a high priority and devote sufficient resources to identify, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations.
- President Trump signed the Fredrick Douglas Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, authorizing $30 million to fight sex and labor trafficking (January 2019).
Revitalizing America’s Underserved Communities
- President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which established Opportunity Zones to incentivize long-term investments in low-income communities across the country (December 2017).
- This bold action which incentivizes investment in low-income communities will foster economic revitalization and job creation, while promoting sustainable economic growth across the nation.
- President Trump signed into law, the First Step Act. Our nation’s faith community is transforming the lives of countless Americans through prison fellowship and played a pivotal role in making the historic First Step Act Prison fellowship ministers to more than 300,000 prisoners across America to help others. Alice Johnson and Matthew Charles are some of the faith leaders who helped achieve a historic bipartisan criminal justice reform (December 2018).
- President Trump held a roundtable in Texas to discuss efforts to build opportunity in minority communities across the country (June 2020).
- At President Trump’s direction, the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council refocused its efforts to better aid underserved communities on economic, health, and educational issues. The Council has worked to encourage investment in Opportunity Zones, streamline regulatory reforms, expand educational opportunities, promote workforce development, and more (December 2018).
- To help low-income minority communities, the Administration has worked to provide access to additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding.
- President Trump and his Administration focused efforts on healthcare disparities impacting minority communities. The Administration worked to increase access to critical telemedicine and mobile services in underserved areas (March 2020).
- The President’s Administration has also been committed towards reforming public health data infrastructure, taking action on chronic conditions in at-risk populations, and addressing food insecurity – all of which will help repair healthcare disparities in our communities.
- President Trump signed the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities establishing best practices for law enforcement, promote safe communities and ensure our justice system works for all Americans. This effort has provided law enforcement with guidance on hiring, training and proven strategies for community policing (June 2020).
- President Trump demonstrated his a smart on crime approach by signing the historic, bipartisan First Step Act in addition to the Administration’s efforts which serve to promote second chance hiring (March 2020).
- The Administration worked to ensure incarcerated individuals have the opportunity to successfully rejoin and contribute to their communities through second chance Pell grants.
- President Trump promoted educational and workplace development opportunities that can help build a brighter future through the signing of the Presidential Executive Order on The White House Initiative to Promote Excellence and Innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (February 2017).
Standing With Israel & Combatting Anti-Semitism
- President Trump followed through on his pledge to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the United States Embassy to Jerusalem (December 2017).
- President Trump signed the Never Again Education Act, which directed the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to develop and disseminate resources to improve awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, and authorizes various Holocaust education program activities to engage prospective and current teachers and educational leaders (May 2020).
- President Trump signed the Executive Order, Combatting against anti-Semitism, which makes it clear that the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to anti-Semitic discrimination based on race, color, or national origin (December 2019).
- President Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights (March 2019).
- President Trump signed the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, strengthening Holocaust restitution efforts and requires a report on the actions of certain foreign countries with regard to the disposition of Holocaust era assets (May 2018).President Trump proclaimed April 12 through April 19, 2018; April 28 through May 5, 2019; and April 19 through April 26, 2020 as the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust.
- President Trump signed the Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017, which expresses to Congress that it is in the United States’ national interest to combat anti-Semitism at home and abroad (January 2019).
- President Trump withdrew the United States from the UN Human Rights Commission which has repeatedly shown anti-Israel bias.
- The Trump Administration has opposed all efforts that seek to isolate and delegitimize Israel, including those through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
- President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal, which enabled the malign behavior and terrorist proxies such as Hizballah and Hamas.
- President Trump strongly supports Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups, which have fired hundreds of rockets and missiles into Israel.
- President Trump appointed a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the State Department (February 2019).
- The Trump Administration removed the last known Nazi criminal from the United States (August 2018).
- The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Right (OCR) prioritized the fight to protect the Jewish community from anti-Semitism, opening a number of investigations into allegations of anti-Semitism. Secretary Devos firmly denounced the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign that promotes the boycott of Israel, saying they stand not for “human rights” but for “anti-Semitism.”
Responding to COVID-19
- President Trump announced that houses of worship, churches, synagogues, and mosques are essential places that provide essential services. The President said, “We need more prayer, not less” (May 2020).
- Under the President’s leadership, the Small Business Administration (SBA) made clarification to the eligibility requirements of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs to include faith-based organizations and houses of worship. The SBA, in partnership with lenders across the nation, has approved over 88,400 religious organizations for a Paycheck Protection Program loan totaling $7.3 billion and saving over one million jobs. (April 2020).
- The Department of Justice filed multiple statements affirming the constitutional rights of people to practice their faith, ensuring state and local governments do not put undue burdens on houses of worship during the pandemic response.
- The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in support of a Mississippi church and the DOJ issued a statement on religious practice and social distancing. The Department has filed additional statements of interest supporting COVID-19-related religious liberty and other constitutional claims (April 2020).
- The Department of Justice sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio of New York City that noted that the Mayor’s recent public statements and enforcements of COVID-19 orders have demonstrated a troubling preference for certain First Amendment rights over others (June 2020). The Justice Department issued statements on June 22, stating that the Department is glad and continuing to monitor New York City to ensure that the Mayor will now continue to permit religious exercise and to have the same respect for the freedom of religion to the freedoms of free speech and assembly in the reopening process.
- The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Stafford County, Virginia over its blocking of an Islamic cemetery (June 2020).
- The Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) launched the Farmers to Families Food Box Program in partnership with faith communities, which has already distributed more than 20 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (May 2020).
- President Trump signed the bipartisan CARES Act at the outset of the pandemic, and included was $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds for state and local education agencies for K-12 students. The Department of Education then issued a rule preventing states from excluding private schools from receiving services funded by the CARES Act.
- The President and Secretary of Education urged states and localities to open up schools as soon as possible, to ensure the best outcomes for students across the country. The President threatened to withhold funding, if they decide to keep schools closed for the fall.
The National Faith Advisory Board exists to partner with and bring together a diverse coalition of faith leaders to amplify their voices to impact our nation.
Copyright 2022 The National Faith Advisory Board. Reprinted with permission.