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President Trump issued an annual proclamation, declaring January 16 Religious Freedom Day, 2021. It could not be more timely, given what is about to unfold in our nation’s capital and across the world. Set this one aside for reference over the coming months, as Americans are forced to choose between faith and laws/edicts.**
Proclamation on Religious Freedom Day, 2021
LAW & JUSTICE Issued on: January 15, 2021
Faith inspires hope. Deeply embedded in the heart and soul of our Nation, this transcendent truth has compelled men and women of uncompromising conscience to give glory to God by worshiping both openly and privately, lifting up themselves and others in prayer. On Religious Freedom Day, we pledge to always protect and cherish this fundamental human right.
When the Pilgrims first crossed the Atlantic Ocean more than 400 years ago in pursuit of religious freedom, their dedication to this first freedom shaped the character and purpose of our Nation. Later, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, their deep desire to practice their religion unfettered from government intrusion was realized. Since then, the United States has set an example for the world in permitting believers to live out their faith in freedom.
Over the past 4 years, my Administration has worked tirelessly to honor the vision of our Founders and defend our proud history of religious liberty. From day one, we have taken action to restore the foundational link between faith and freedom and promote a culture of religious liberty. My Administration has protected the rights of individual religious believers, communities of faith, and faith-based organizations. We have defended religious liberty domestically and around the world. For example, I signed an Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty[*] to ensure that faith-based organizations would not be forced to compromise their religious beliefs as they serve their communities. This includes defending the rights of religious orders to care for the infirm and elderly without being fined out of existence for refusing to facilitate access to services that violate their faith.
We have also protected healthcare providers’ rights not to be forced to perform procedures that violate their most deeply-held convictions. Additionally, we have ended the misguided policies of denying access to educational funding to historically black colleges and universities because of their religious character and of denying loan forgiveness to those who perform public services at religious organizations. Throughout this difficult year, we have continued these efforts, cutting red tape to ensure houses of worship and other faith-based organizations could receive Paycheck Protection Program loans on the same grounds and with the same parameters as any other entity. We have also aggressively defended faith communities against overreach by State and local governments that have tried to shut down communal worship. Together, we have honored the sanctity of every life, protected the rights of Americans to follow their conscience, and preserved the historical tradition of religious freedom in our country.
While Americans enjoy the blessings of religious liberty, we must never forget others around the world who are denied this unalienable right. Sadly, millions of people across the globe are persecuted and discriminated against for their faith. My Administration has held foreign governments accountable for trampling — in many cases, egregiously so — on religious liberty. In 2019, to shed light on this important issue, I welcomed survivors of religious persecution from 16 countries in the Oval Office, including Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and made history by standing before the United Nations General Assembly and calling on all nations of the world to stop persecuting people of faith. The United States will never waver in these efforts to expand religious liberty around the world and calls on all nations to respect the rights of its citizens to live according to their beliefs and conscience.
On Religious Freedom Day, we honor the vision of our Founding Fathers for a Nation made strong and righteous by a people free to exercise their faith and follow their conscience. As Americans united in unparalleled freedom, we recommit to safeguarding and preserving religious freedom across our land and around the world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2021, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that remind us of our shared heritage of religious liberty and that teach us how to secure this blessing both at home and around the world.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.
DONALD J. TRUMP
* Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, Issued on: May 4, 2017 [emphasis added]
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to guide the executive branch in formulating and implementing policies with implications for the religious liberty of persons and organizations in America, and to further compliance with the Constitution and with applicable statutes and Presidential Directives, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom. The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government. For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans’ first freedom. Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government. The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections.
Sec. 2. Respecting Religious and Political Speech. All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech. In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury. As used in this section, the term “adverse action” means the imposition of any tax or tax penalty; the delay or denial of tax-exempt status; the disallowance of tax deductions for contributions made to entities exempted from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of title 26, United States Code; or any other action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit, or benefit.
Sec. 3. Conscience Protections with Respect to Preventive-Care Mandate. The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate promulgated under section 300gg-13(a)(4) of title 42, United States Code.
Sec. 4. Religious Liberty Guidance. In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.
Sec. 5. Severability. If any provision of this order, or the application of any provision to any individual or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and the application of its other provisions to any other individuals or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.
Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,
May 4, 2017.
** “No American Should Have to Choose Between Faith and the Law,” January 16, 2018
“No American—whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner—should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.” — Proclamation by President Donald J. Trump
Tuesday, January 16, 2018, marks America’s celebration of National Religious Freedom Day. President Donald J. Trump made the observance official in a signed proclamation this week.
Religious freedom has shaped the history of the United States since our forefathers sought refuge from religious persecution. Federal recognition of Religious Freedom Day began with President George H. W. Bush in 1993, and presidents have generally signed a new proclamation every year since.
January 16 is the anniversary of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom’s passage. Considered one of the foundational texts of a young America, the document outlined what principles constituted true respect by a government for freedom of religion. “All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities,” wrote its author, Thomas Jefferson.
The Virginia statute served as a model in many ways for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which followed a few years later with its familiar words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
In that spirit, Religious Freedom Day is a moment to celebrate and fight to protect religious freedom in America and around the world. “We will continue to condemn and combat extremism, terrorism, and violence against people of faith, including genocide waged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims,” President Trump writes in this year’s proclamation.
The President’s commitment to religious freedom has guided the Trump Administration’s work during its first year:
- President Trump issued an executive order last May titled “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” reinforcing the religious freedom protections of the Constitution and minimizing “undue interference by the Federal Government” in areas such as health care.
- The President and First Lady met with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican later that month, discussing how religious communities could help combat terrorism and relieve human suffering in afflicted parts of the world.
- Vice President Mike Pence has been a forceful advocate for religious freedom, perhaps most visibly in a stirring speech delivered at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians last May.
President Trump’s proclamation is a reminder that civic participation and religious observance shouldn’t be opposing forces. “The free exercise of religion is a source of personal and national stability,” the proclamation reads.
“Faith breathes life and hope into our world.”