Trump Signs Executive Order Protecting Religious Liberties
The National Day of Prayer was given greater prominence this year as President Donald Trump met with dozens of religious leaders for several hours on Wednesday, followed by an invitation to join him in the Rose Garden at the White House Thursday morning for the signing of an executive order that promotes free speech and religious liberty.
“For too long, the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying, and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs,” Trump stated.
Trump, who campaigned on the promise of reversing the Johnson Amendment, which threatened churches and religious organization with the loss of their tax-exempt status if they endorsed or opposed political candidates, followed through on his promise. He told religious leaders that he was signing the executive order “to prevent the Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights.”
Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood, who was in Washington, D.C., for the National Day of Prayer event and the subsequent signing of the executive order at the White House, said he was pleased and encouraged by the signing of the executive order.
“In our 103-year history, we have emphasized an apolitical stance and continue to encourage pastors to use the pulpit to proclaim the gospel, not political campaigning,” Wood observed. “That said, we welcome these changes, as we always remain in support of a reduction in government regulations on religious bodies. Religious liberty is often called the first freedom and it is something we all hold dear. For the same reason, we also support any form of ‘regulatory relief’ on religious bodies.”
In his address, Trump told religious leaders that free speech does not end at the church steps, and this executive order would give churches their voices back.
“Freedom is not a gift from government, freedom is a gift from God,” Trump said, later adding, “We must never infringe on the noble tradition of change from the church and progress from the pew.”
Prior to the signing of the religious freedom executive order, following the tradition of every president for the past three decades, Trump signed a proclamation making May 4, 2017, a National Day of Prayer. In the proclamation, the president stated, “We therefore pray especially for the many people around the world who are persecuted for their beliefs and deprived of their fundamental liberty to live according to their conscience. We pray for the triumph of freedom over oppression, and for God's love and mercy over evil.”
Image by Kevin McCoy