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Faith Leaders React to Trump’s Religious Liberty Order: Did He Go Far Enough?

05-04-2017
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Melanie Israel of the Heritage Foundation tells CBN News why she believes the Executive Order falls short

Faith leaders are revealing some mixed reactions to President Donald Trump's new Religious Liberty Executive order. Some say it falls short of addressing several key issues that were included in a draft of the order that circulated over the winter.

Ryan Anderson from the Heritage Foundation tweeted that the current version of the executive order is "woefully inadequate."

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal group that defends religious liberty, is also disappointed with the scope of the president's order.

"The outline directs the IRS ‘to exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment.’ But Americans cannot rely on the discretion of IRS agents, some of whom have abused that discretion for years to silence pastors and intrude into America’s pulpits," ADF says in a statement.

"Nor does the outline do anything to prevent a future, hostile administration from wielding its power to penalize any church who dares exercise its constitutionally protected freedoms in a manner that displeases those in authority. A legislative problem like the Johnson Amendment demands a legislative solution like the Free Speech Fairness Act," ADF continues.

On the liberal side, other critics say the new order would elevate one religious perspective above all others. In an open letter published online, 1,300 faith leaders expressed their concern over the current draft. 

"Although it purports to strengthen religious freedom, what this order would actually do is misuse this freedom, turning it into a weapon to discriminate against broad swaths of our nation," the letter reads in part. 

However, many in the faith community support President Trump's order.

Faith and Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed made a statement applauding the president and his "bold leadership in advancing religious freedom."

"This is just the first bite at the apple, not the last. We still support the full statutory repeal of the Johnson Amendment and Obamacare mandates, but this order is a giant step in the right direction in protecting the First Amendment rights of Christians and other Americans of conscience and faith," Reed wrote.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins also praised the order and was quick to defend it in an interview with CBN News.  

"I think some would have liked to have seen everything being explicit in the executive order in terms of the attacks on religious freedom. But quite frankly, I’m not sure there’s enough paper in Washington, D.C. to contain all of the attacks that were launched on religious freedom under the Obama administration," said Perkins.  

And Franklin Graham spoke out on Facebook, praising the order for protecting churches and Christian organizations.

The president signed the order Thursday at an event at the White House marking the National Day of Prayer. 

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