Mike Huckabee, May 5, 2017
As promised, President Trump signed a religious liberty executive order on National Prayer Day, but it was not the strong protection that many people were praying for. It mostly directs executive branch officials that it is “the policy of the administration to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty” and instructs agencies such as the IRS and HHS to consider religious exemptions to onerous Obamacare mandates and not unfairly target churches and religious groups.
Some conservative critics say it doesn’t go nearly far enough (David French at the National Review dismissed it as a “nothing burger”), but you’d think that people who believe in limited government would appreciate that there are limits to what a President can do. That’s easy to forget after eight years of Obama, who recognized no limits on executive power. But that attitude was at the heart of much of the targeting of Christians that rose primarily out of an executive branch rife with nakedly aggressive leftwing activists eager to force religious beliefs into subservience to political correctness.
Just by being elected and giving those bureaucracies a much-needed attitude adjustment, Trump is taking a big step toward ending the assault on religious freedom. Another necessary form of relief will come in having him appoint judges at all levels, but particularly to the Supreme Court, where oppressive state laws and frivolous lawsuits targeting religious freedom will eventually end up.
But if we want solid affirmation that the First Amendment right to religious freedom remains above all other laws and regulations (hence the Founders listing it FIRST), that will take the action of Congress in writing clearer protections into laws and repealing the Johnson Amendment, which was an open assault on both freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Washington is an awfully big swamp; we can’t expect one man to drain it by himself. That’s why voters sent 238 Republican Representatives and 52 Republican Senators to Congress as plumber’s helpers. Time for them to pull on their hip boots and get to pumping.