In a Rose Garden ceremony President Trump unveiled his executive order entitled “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” From what I can tell, it says a lot about free speech, a right we already have, and does nothing to protect religious liberty.
Trump’s order seems to offer some relief to those evangelical universities locked in legal battles over the contraceptive mandate outlined in the Affordable Care Act, and claims to protect pastors from prosecution under the Johnson Amendment for endorsing political candidates from their pulpits.
I remember Trump saying when he was on the campaign trail that he would make it safe for believers to say “Merry Christmas” again. I thought then that was not a concern to me because I had never stopped saying “Merry Christmas.”
But it was those kind of statements that made me think he was out of touch with the real concerns of believers. Did he truly understand Christian values or was he just courting the evangelical vote? I am beginning to think it must be the latter.
Professor John Inazu at Washington University School of Law said, “When it comes to challenges to religious liberty, the Johnson Amendment is about the least important issue I can think of.” President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview John Stonestreet echoes that sentiment when he stated, “More important than whether pastors can speak politics is whether everyone can live their convictions in [the] public square.”
Their concerns come from the fact that Trump’s order did not include any language addressing the ongoing conflicts between the LGBT community and those who wish to simply practice their sincerely held beliefs. It contains no declared protection of religious liberty despite its titled claim. How can Trump claim to be promoting religious liberty without protecting it?
“Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked,” Proverbs 25:26. Believers cannot retreat from being an influence for biblical justice and morality in society lest we too become polluted and swept up in our culture’s corruption.
At the same time Christians should not become overly entangled in the political process to the point that we become little more than a puppet to the political system. We have a separate mandate and would do well in this respect to remember what our Lord told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36.
The potential consequences to increased political speech in the pulpit both good and bad are many. But I believe politics should be about principles not personalities, issues not individuals, the character of our government and not the candidates running for office.
While the jury is still out on how Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch will rule on matters of law that affect the unborn, marriage and religious liberty, his appointment seems to be a good start for Trump. But he stumbled with this executive order that was suppose to promote religious liberty.