WASHINGTON, D.C., May 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – President Donald Trump signed Thursday an executive order creating a new White House office to represent the rights of religious Americans and involve their perspective in future policymaking.
The order will “ensure that the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government,” according to a White House press release.
The new White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative will keep the executive branch informed of how effectively federal religious-liberty protections are being enforced; identify new ways to reduce restrictions on the free exercise of religion; make recommendations as to how faith-based and community organizations can play a role in (or instead of) government programs; and advise the administration on how its policies may impact faith-based or community programs.
The new initiative will be housed in the Executive Office of the President, making its day-to-day working relationship with the president similar to that of the National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget, or Council of Economic Advisors.
A new Advisor to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative will lead the office, which will seek advice from “experts and various community and faith leaders” outside the government. Every executive department or agency without its own similar entity will name a liason to the White House Initiative.
Trump signed the order during the annual National Day of Prayer ceremony in the White House’s Rose Garden, CBS News reports.
“Prayer has always been at the center of the American life. America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer,” the president said. “We take this step because we know that in solving the many many problems and our great challenges, faith is more powerful than government and nothing is more powerful than God.”
“I'm extremely grateful that we have a president who realizes the importance of prayer, faith, and religious freedoms to our nation,” evangelical leader Franklin Graham told CBN News in reaction to the announcement.
“Ordering every department of the federal government to work on faith based partnerships – not just those with faith offices – represents a widespread expansion of a program that has historically done very effective work and now can do even greater work,” Johnnie Moore, an unofficial spokesman for Trump’s religious advisors, explained to CBN.
The Washington Post notes that former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama established faith-based initiative offices, as well, although those were more limited in scope and focused on allowing faith-based groups to compete for government grants and communicate with the White House.