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Shackelford: Trump Religious Liberty Executive Order Is Encouraging Progress

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Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO and Chief Counsel of First Liberty Institute, today praised President Trump’s new Executive Order promoting free speech and religious liberty.

In a statement, Shackelford said:
“President Trump’s executive order on religious liberty should be both unnecessary and unremarkable. Yet activists have pledged to challenge President Trump in court for supporting the First Amendment. Our country was founded on the promise that its government would respect the religious liberty of its people. First Liberty will do everything in our power to support this effort for America’s first liberty—religious freedom.”
The Executive Order fulfills part of the stated agenda on religious freedom President Trump articulated during his 2016 campaign, the transition, and after his inauguration.

The Order contains four points of focus:
Declares that it is the policy of the administration to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty;

Directs the IRS to exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious leaders from speaking about politics and candidates from the pulpit;

Provides regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

Directs the Attorney General to issue guidance interpreting religious liberty provisions within federal law.
In response to the Executive Order’s impact on the military, Mike Berry, Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs, said:
“Today’s executive action by President Trump is the best news we’ve received from the White House in eight years. This executive order strengthens our national commitment to religious liberty. Section 4’s direction to the Attorney General ‘issue guidance’ will have a large impact on religious liberty in the Armed Forces as the Department of Defense is in desperate need of religious liberty education. This will strengthen the religious freedom of those who have needed it the most: the men and women of our armed forces. While they have fought selflessly to defend our first freedom, too many of our servicemen and women have been forced to hide their faith or face punishment at the highest levels of command. Today, the Commander-in-Chief has sent a strong message: America’s commitment to freedom—and especially religious freedom—is our national priority.”

A day after President Trump’s inauguration, Shackelford—a Constitutional attorney and leading expert on religious liberty—recommended six actions the new president could take to advance religious freedom. Read his recommendations here.

In addition to the impact on the military, with this Executive Order two other pressing areas have been directly addressed: the Johnson Amendment and the Obamacare mandates for abortion and contraceptive involvement by faith-based organizations. These mandates threatened to financially cripple many organizations.
The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court fulfilled another item. While an Executive Order only lasts as long as the President’s term, the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice, who has been strong on religious liberty in every decision he has joined or written, will advance religious freedom for many decades.