President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to establish a faith-based office with the goal of protecting religious freedom, he announced on Thursday.
The White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative will ensure ‘the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the federal government,’ Trump said at the Rose Garden during the White House’s annual National Day of Prayer ceremony.
The president added: ‘Prayer has always been at the center of the American life. America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer.’
One of Trump’s top faith advisers said the office’s aim was a culture shift to minimize conversations about church-state barriers ‘without all of these arbitrary concerns as to what is appropriate,’ according to the Washington Post.
President Trump signed an executive order to establish a faith-based office with the goal of protecting religious freedom on Thursday
The office will make recommendations to the Trump administration and inform them of ‘any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law.’
It will also expand government grants to make sure faith-based groups have ‘equal access to government funding and equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.’
Johnnie Moore, a spokesman for Trump’s evangelical advisory group, said the office will have an emphasis on prison reform, education, mental health and ‘strengthening families.’
A newly-appointed White House adviser will lead the effort, which will be supported by religious leaders outside the government.
‘We take this step because we know that in solving the many many problems and our great challenges, faith is more powerful than government and nothing is more powerful than god,’ the president said.
Trump also told the crowd at the Rose Garden that he is to thank for people saying ‘Merry Christmas’ more and being more open about prayer.
The White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative will ensure ‘the faith-based and community organizations have strong advocates in the federal government’
Trump also told the crowd at the Rose Garden that he’s to thank for people saying ‘Merry Christmas’ more and being more open about prayer
He said: ‘Don’t you notice a big difference between two or three years ago and now? Now it’s straight up.’
The Clinton administration had a similar office in the 1990s and faced legal challenges, with groups fighting to guard Constitutional protections against government-backed religion, as the Post points out. However, Trump is the first president to present such an office with such a homogeneously Christian group of advisers.
During last year’s National Day of Prayer Trump cited ‘religious liberty’ when he signed an executive order to allow the IRS to opt out of the Johnson Amendment, which bans nonprofit groups from engaging in political campaign.
The 2017 executive order also allowed organizations to opt out Obamacare’s requirement that they provide contraception care on religious grounds.
Trump’s announcement on the White House faith-based office comes as the president admitted he paid his personal lawyer Michael Cohen back the $330,000 he paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair.