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Over 150 conservative leaders urge Trump to sign order protecting religious liberty

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

March 2, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – More than 150 conservative leaders are urging President Trump to sign an executive order "protecting the practical exercise of religious freedom."

The letter, sent yesterday, is from the Council for National Policy, currently led by the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins. 

It began by thanking Trump for "beginning to reverse" the "devastating trend" of Obama-era policies hurting religious freedom. 

"You have rightly noted, at the National Prayer Breakfast, that '[o]ur Republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God,'" the leaders wrote. "You observed in the same speech that international religious freedom violations are taking place."

"While the media has largely passed over these comments, they have not escaped our notice," they wrote. "Thank you for being very clear about the importance of religious liberty. Naming the problem is the first step toward addressing it."

The Council for National Policy members asked Trump to issue "an executive order to prevent federal discrimination against [Americans] for acting in accordance with their beliefs." Examples of such ongoing discrimination include Christian adoption agencies having to shut down and the Little Sisters of the Poor being forced to participate in the provision of contraception.

Federal grantees "face the prospect of the government forcing them to violate their faith or give up their role serving the disadvantaged and poor around the world," the letter explains.

It lists other domestic threat against religious freedom as:

  • Adoption providers such as Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Charities have been forced out of Massachusetts, Illinois, and D.C. because they are committed to placing needy children with a married mom and dad.
  • The Obama administration’s solicitor general declared before the Supreme Court that religious schools that fail to embrace the Court’s redefinition of marriage could see their tax exempt status fall into jeopardy.
  • Schools like Gordon College and Brigham Young University Law School have had their accreditation come under scrutiny because of their beliefs about marriage, and the threat of federal action against religious schools remains. 
  • Service members like Navy Chaplain Wes Modder have been disciplined for counseling according to their Christian beliefs about natural marriage.
  • The Little Sisters of the Poor as well as other religious groups and colleges have been forced under the HHS contraceptives mandate to choose between paying crushing federal fines or violating their deeply held beliefs.
  • Family business owners around the country have been punished by state and local governments because of their religious views. Earlier this month, the Washington State Supreme Court affirmed the penalties imposed on florist grandmother Barronelle Stutzman for following her faith in the marketplace. She and others like her need to be assured that the federal government will not similarly punish them— whether through tax policy, denial of grants or contracts, or otherwise—because they act in accordance with their beliefs.
  • Under a policy issued by the Obama administration’s agriculture secretary, a USDA official threatened to remove all USDA inspectors if West Michigan Beef Company owner Donald Vander Boon didn’t permanently refrain from placing in the company’s breakroom religious literature supporting marriage between one man and one woman that the department deemed “offensive.” The Vander Boons were forced to choose between their religious beliefs and having their plant closed and their employees left jobless. 

"We urge you to take action to ensure their freedom to believe and live out those beliefs is protected from government punishment," the conservative leaders wrote. "We, in the conservative movement, stand ready to assist you in your efforts to protect and uphold the freedom of religion in America."

Leaders of Priests for Life, Students for Life of America, the Family Foundation of Virginia, Jeanneane Maxon Consulting, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Eagle Forum, and Operation Rescue were among the signatories.

Read the Council for National Policy's full letter here.

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