February 7, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — U.S. secretary of education Betsy DeVos reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to religious freedom recently with a new op-ed about the threat to religious expression in public schools across the country.
“Too many students and too many teachers are separated from their faith while they are in school,” DeVos writes in a USA Today op-ed, citing cases in which a Utah fourth-grader was told to wipe the ashes off his forehead, a Kentucky high school superintendent forced the closure of a student-operated prayer locker, and a Washington high school football coach was forced out of his job for silently praying after games.
“These incidents indicate that too many champion the part of the First Amendment that bars an ‘establishment of religion’ but choose to ignore the clear admonition against ‘prohibiting the free exercise’ of religion,” DeVos argues. “In fact, the First Amendment doesn’t exist to protect us from religion. It exists to protect religion from government.”
The secretary goes on to detail the Trump administration’s efforts to strengthen religious freedom protections in education, such as a recent guidance on school districts reporting and certifying their schools’ compliance or lack thereof with federal protections for student prayer.
“We are not enforcing unconstitutional prohibitions on school districts contracting with tutors, counselors or other similar secular services simply because of their religious affiliation,” DeVos says. “We took down the previous administration’s list, which publicly shamed faith-based schools for requesting assurance of an exemption from Title IX, a 1972 law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in education.”
President Trump himself touched on the same topic during his State of the Union address earlier this week, declaring that “in America, we don’t punish prayer. We don’t tear down crosses. We don’t ban symbols of faith. We don’t muzzle preachers and pastors.”
To conservatives, judicial nominees committed to upholding the Constitution have been a highlight of Trump’s presidency, with most of his picks greatly pleasing pro-life and pro-family advocates. Religious liberty has also been a priority of this administration, from lifting the Obama administration’s contraception mandate to establishing a White House office tasked with fielding the concerns of religious Americans and monitoring threats as they arise.