In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there have been some statements and potential developments regarding religious freedom principles that President Trump promised to uphold in his campaign. Also, the Boy Scouts of America has announced it will now admit "transgender" boys, i.e., girls who say they are male. And, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court is getting high marks from a number of Christian leaders and organizations.
3 - Religious freedom watch: topic at National Prayer Breakfast, Administration spokesman voices intent to uphold religious liberties, executive order rumored
The recent National Prayer Breakfast contained a number of references to religious liberty, according to an article on the Baptist Press website, which reported that President Trump, speaking at the event, said that his administration "will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty."
The story quotes the President as saying that he would "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment," which is described by the website as "a 1954 law that bars churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates."
The Baptist Press piece also reported:
Trump said his high regard for religious liberty motivates his opposition to the Johnson Amendment as well as his immigration policy and his fight against radical Islamic terrorism.And, there was a draft of an executive order that was leaked this week, and, according to the Daily Signal:
"We will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence," Trump said. "America will flourish as long as our liberty, and in particular our religious liberty, is allowed to flourish."
Immigration policy, Trump said, must secure America's borders against "those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle."
Trump called terrorism "a fundamental threat to religious freedom."
The draft of the executive order, reportedly called “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” tells federal agencies to accommodate religious practices “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law,” would no longer require religious employers such as Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their beliefs by providing contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to employees, and prohibits penalizing employees because of personal religious views.The article says that, "Conservatives and religious groups are calling on President Donald Trump to stand firm" on the order. This comes in light of the Administration's announcement that it would not rescind an order by then-President Obama protecting so-called LGBTQ "rights" for Federal contractors.
And, in a recent conversation with me, Stuart Shepard of Family Policy Alliance called attention to the response of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in response to a reporter's question about religious liberty being used a "code for discrimination." This is from the WhiteHouse.gov website:
...We have freedom of religion in this country, and I think people should be able to practice their religion, express their religion, express areas of their faith without reprisal. And I think that pendulum sometimes swings the other way in the name of political correctness.And, in Congress this week, according to another Baptist Press story, a bill called the Free Speech Fairness Act was "introduced Feb. 1, the day before President Trump reiterated his intent to eliminate the so-called Johnson Amendment..." According to a bill sponsor, it "would free pastors, churches and other tax-exempt entities to intervene on behalf of or against candidates in an election campaign." Sen. James Lankford is sponsoring in the Senate, and Rep. Steve Scalise is the House sponsor.
And I think the President and the Vice President both understand that one of the things that makes our country and this democracy so great is our ability to express our religion, to believe in faith, to express it, and to live by it. And that’s where I think the important part is -- whether it’s a small business owner or employee, he wants to have some degree of expression of faith at the company. And too often those voices get pushed out in the name of political correctness.
So he’s going to continue to make sure that we not only speak up for it, but find ways in which we can keep that line a little less blurred and make sure that the pendulum doesn’t swing against people...
2 - Boy Scouts to accept transgender "boys"
A stunning, but not necessarily surprising announcement was made recently by the Boy Scouts of America. Todd Starnes of Fox News wrote this:
On Monday, the BSA announced that girls who identify as boys will now be allowed to join the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts – marking a complete capitulation to the gender and sex revolutionaries.John Stemberger, who is now chairman of the board of directors for a Christ-centered character-based organization called Trail Life USA, told Starnes that "the BSA decision is 'sad beyond belief.'"
Stemberger also said, that this new direction will “put boys in a state of confusion and does nothing to help normal psychological development.” He added, "Aside from the fact they are now going to confuse literally hundreds of thousands of young men and boys – you are now going to have further youth protection problems."
Starnes also noted:
In a statement released late Monday, Trail Life assured its “members and charter organizations nationwide that we are committed to the biblical traditional values affirmed in our statement of faith and values.”Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Starnes: "This is Exhibit A of the insatiable demands of those pushing this sexual anarchy."
1 - President nominates Gorsuch for U.S. Supreme Court
This week, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, currently serving on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, to be a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, to fill the open seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.
The Family Research Council put it this way:
This was excellent news, particularly for the evangelicals that had helped push Trump to victory. Not only had the president made good on his promise to select a nominee from the list of 21 names he had released during his campaign, but Gorsuch was the kind of constitutional originalist that he had promised for the post.Pro-life groups are getting mobilized to support the nominee. The Susan B. Anthony List website announced the formation of a coalition, represented at prolifecourt.com, "where grassroots activists can send an immediate message to their U.S. Senators, and are planning coordinated email and phone call campaigns to offices, in-state demonstrations targeting key Senators, and a digital advertising campaign."
That website provides this information:
Judge Gorsuch has a strong record of protecting life and religious liberty.
- Gorsuch wrote a book called “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” He argues in the book that “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable” and that “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
- Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in holding that Obamacare’s abortifacient mandate violates the religious beliefs of closely-held corporations.
- Gorsuch also ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, defending the rights of nuns not to be forced to pay for abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.
- Gorsuch forcefully dissented from a case in which the Tenth Circuit sided with Planned Parenthood and refused to allow the Governor of Utah to defund the abortion business in wake of videos showing its involvement in the selling of baby body parts.