President Trump signed an executive order in early May that created a White House office on faith initiatives, but also promised to promote religious freedom. The order was signed on the National Day of Prayer and overturned the religious liberty protections that were enacted during the Obama administration. Now, the religious freedom of faith-based organizations will be protected, and citizens will be left out to dry. In other words, the evangelicals will be fine, and that’s all that matters, right?
A president helping faith-based organizations is not new, although its intentions have changed over the years. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was originally created by President George W. Bush in order to make a “level playing field” for faith-based organizations to compete for government funding. During President Obama’s first term, he signed an executive order creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Obama’s executive order maintained what Bush had put in place but made a few changes. According to the Washington Post, an advisory council of diverse leaders was assembled and tasked with the job of examining church-state issues. The council was composed of leaders who fell on both ends of the spectrum in their politics and faith. The council decided on two key rules to protect the religious liberty of citizens who receive government-subsidized social services. First, if the citizen objects to the religion that their assigned provider promotes, they are referred to an alternate provider. Second, they are to receive a written notice that informs them of their protections. This has all been revoked by Trump’s new executive order and diversity in the decision making has been pushed to the side.
Now, the religious freedom of the faith-based organization is protected. This executive order is about much more than “leveling the playing field” for religious-based organizations, it is about taking basic rights from citizens. The first amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The separation of church and state has disappeared under the Trump administration. However, this isn’t surprising, since 80-16 percent of his voters were white evangelists and Trump is giving them everything they asked for. The signing took place in the White House Rose Garden on National Prayer Day, Thursday, May 3, where he stated, “faith is more powerful than government” in front of religious leaders from multiple religions.
The executive order was signed the day after Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, remarked on Fox News that Trump repaid his former attorney Michael Cohen the $130,000 in hush money he gave to porn actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. This statement contradicted Trump’s previous denial of knowing anything about the payment Cohen made to Daniels. The following day, Trump was in the Rose Garden, saying, “Prayer changes hearts and transforms lives. It uplifts the soul, inspires action, and unites us all as one nation under God,” as white evangelists cheered and forgot about his scandal with a porn actress. This executive order is nothing but a show to distract supporters from Trump’s long list of ethical and legal messes currently under investigation. But this particular show will cost citizens their constitutional right to freedom of religion.