7 Things Trump Should Include on His Religious Freedom To-Do List
On National Religious Freedom Day, the Family Research Council and First Liberty Institute offer some suggestions for the incoming administration.
In four days on January 20, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the United State’s 45th president. President-elect Trump has touted a full agenda for his first 100 days in office and even for his first day, claiming that he will waste no time in getting down to business.
Two organizations spoke with The Stream about items they hope to see on Trump’s agenda — specifically items pertaining to religious freedom. Here’s a religious freedom to-do list for the new administration, with contributions from the Family Research Council (FRC), FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty Director Travis Weber, and Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute.
1. From Weber: Protect religious liberty equally for everyone.
“Justice is blind,” Weber said, “and the same law must be applied neutrally and fairly to everyone, regardless of their religion, and regardless of the circumstances.”
But Weber believes the Obama administration has prioritized the religious freedom rights of some over others. “This approach has been incredibly destructive to the morale of anyone who cares about religious freedom,” he told The Stream. “The new president can do much good merely by taking the approach that all religious claims deserve to be treated equally by the government, regardless of the faith of the individual and the context in which the claim is raised.”
2. From FRC and Shackelford: Address religious liberty deficiencies in the military.
“Many [military members] have suffered greatly in the last years from attacks,” Shackelford said. While he says that First Liberty Institute has achieved legal victory for every military client they have represented, the attacks “have been very difficult on those serving and [have] sent a chilling effect throughout the military.”
First Liberty is currently representing Monifa Sterling, a Marine who was court-martialed for refusing to remove a Bible verse from her personal work area. First Liberty has appealed her case to the United States Supreme Court.
3. From FRC and Weber: Prioritize religious freedom in foreign policy.
Weber noted that free religious exercise is not only a staple of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but is recognized internationally in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
4. From Weber: Protect robust religious exercise.
“Under the Obama administration’s view, religious freedom only applies fully within ‘houses of worship,’ not to one’s place of business or anywhere else,” Weber said, citing the HHS mandate, which only exempted churches and houses of worship from having to provide contraception to their employees, but not other religious organizations.
“Religious freedom includes the ability to exercise one’s religious beliefs in all spheres of life,” Weber said.
5. From FRC: Reinforce government-wide protections for religious liberty.
This will be key to ensuring that the new administration will “retain religious voices in the public square,” something FRC calls important.
6. From Shackelford: Rescind restrictive executive orders, letters and actions.
According to Shackelford, various executive actions by President Obama have caused “great conflicts and attacks on religious liberty in education, health care (HHS) and employment.”
7. From Shackelford: Appoint a solid Supreme Court justice.
There are also over 100 federal judicial seats waiting to be filled with appointments by Trump, Shackelford said. In December, Shackelford told The Stream that Trump’s potential nominations for these vacancies afford “huge windows of opportunity” for improved religious freedom in the coming years.
“This is a great time of opportunity for religious freedom advances, but it is just that — an opportunity,” Shackelford said. “We have to make sure those opportunities are realized.”
Family Research Council advances faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.
First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans.
National Religious Freedom Day 2017 is Monday, January 16. Check back with The Stream for more articles discussing religious freedom.