President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order on religious freedom, in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer, has provoked many different reactions from church leaders across denominational affiliations.
“For too long the government has used the power of the state against people of faith. Bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs,” said President Trump during the Rose Garden Ceremony and signing on Thursday. The ceremony was attended by some members of his Evangelical Advisory Board and other religious leaders, as reported by Fox News and pictured above. “It’s been happening. That is why I am signing today an executive order to defend the freedom of religion and speech in America.”
The content of the executive order, titled “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” promises the executive branch will “honor and enforce” religious freedom, consider amended regulations to the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate, and the Secretary of the Treasury “not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization” on the basis of moral and political speech, among other things.
Some church leaders are commending the president’s executive order as a win for free speech and religious liberty, while others say it falls short.
Here is a non-comprehensive listing of responses from notable representatives of Christian denominations, organizations, and scholars.
“The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) commends President Trump for announcing today a policy of protecting and vigorously promoting religious freedom. Religious freedom is a gift from God to people of all faiths and none, and is an indispensable foundation for human flourishing. We are grateful for the extent to which our constitution and laws protect the freedom of all Americans.
“We welcome the promise, repeated today, that religious organizations will not be required to provide drugs that may act as abortifacients and services that violate their commitment to protect all human life. Now we call on the administration to promptly issue revised regulations and resolve lingering legal disputes over this issue.
“While the executive order is a first step, it does not permanently resolve even the issues it addresses. Anything done by executive order can be undone by a future president. Threats to religious freedom in America need to be addressed through legislative action that protects religious liberty for all Americans. We call on President Trump to work with members of Congress to pass legislation that strengthens the rights of all Americans and allows the organizations they form to operate in ways that are consistent with their beliefs.”
“Today’s Executive Order begins the process of alleviating the serious burden of the HHS mandate. We will engage with the Administration to ensure that adequate relief is provided to those with deeply held religious beliefs about some of the drugs, devices, and surgical procedures that HHS has sought to require people of faith to facilitate over the last several years. We welcome a decision to provide a broad religious exemption to the HHS mandate, but will have to review the details of any regulatory proposals.
“We will continue to advocate for permanent relief from Congress on issues of critical importance to people of faith. Religious freedom is a fundamental right that should be upheld by all branches of government and not subject to political whims. As president of the Bishops’ Conference, I had the opportunity to meet with President Trump this morning in the Oval Office to address these and other topics.”
“My job as a priest is not to endorse a politician of any particular political persuasion, but to proclaim the good news of God’s redeeming love as revealed to us in Jesus. Easing the restrictions of the Johnson Amendment has the potential to deepen the ideological divides in this country and fracture congregations, not bridge them. This move will politicize churches, distract us from our intended mission and further polarize the people we are attempting to unite.”
“As a pastor, I’m not concerned about losing my religious freedom but as a transgender person, I am worried about being discriminated against because of overly broad religious exemptions. I am afraid that if I’m injured and taken to the ER a doctor could refuse to treat me when they see that my body is different. As a person of faith, discrimination is not a value that fits into my faith tradition. I don’t want to see religion used as means of harming people.”
“President Trump deserves praise for applying an emergency brake on the government’s movement toward coercion and discrimination. There is much that is commendable in the executive order, even while there is much that is missing – and that I pray will be soon addressed. Today’s action is a breath of fresh air and should be understood, I believe, as a first step toward righting the wrongs of recent years and reassuring people of faith that they are not second-class citizens.
“I pray today’s action by the White House will set a new tone nationwide honoring the value of religious free expression and ending an embrace of intolerance and discrimination against people of faith.
“Finally, I was pleased to have been invited to meet today with senior White House national security staff to discuss ways for our nation to be more active in defending people of faith around the world. Surely, there is much to be done in combating persecution and genocide.”
“The religious liberty executive order is meaningless. No substantive protections for conscience. A betrayal. Ivanka and Jared won. We lost.”
“Grateful for Executive Order’s affirmation of the need to protect religious freedom. Much, much more needed, especially from Congress.
While the Assemblies of God’s general superintendent has yet to publish an official statement, it’s reported Wood attended a Wednesday meeting at the White House and today’s Rose Garden Ceremony and signing of the president’s executive order in Washington, D.C.
On his official Facebook page, Wood posted a picture of himself with Ivanka and Jared Kushner accompanied by the following comment:
“Today, on the National Day of Prayer, President Trump is scheduled to sign an executive order promoting free speech and religious freedom. Along with other evangelical leaders, we had an extended meeting with him yesterday at the White House. We have returned in the Rose Garden to see this order signed.”
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference: