Faith

Religious Liberty Finds an Ally in Trump

The administration issues new guidance to protect faith expression in public schools.

Nate Jackson · Jan. 17, 2020

Thursday was National Religious Freedom Day, which, as Gary Bauer notes, “commemorates the day in 1786 when the Virginia General Assembly adopted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s statute became the foundation for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom, among other key liberties.”

To mark the occasion, President Donald Trump hosted in the Oval Office students, teachers, and others whose expressions of faith have been silenced in public schools, as well as those who’ve fought in the court system to protect those rights. He declared that he’s fighting back against the “growing totalitarian impulse on the far left that seeks to punish, restrict, and even prohibit religious expression.” Indeed, he ordered nine federal agencies to roll back regulations that restrict religious liberty — most of them issued during the tenure of the most faith-intolerant regime in the history of our Republic.

Schools won’t be forced to sponsor religious activities. The guidance states, “For example, teachers and other public school officials, acting in their official capacities, may not lead their classes in prayer, devotional readings from the Bible, or other religious activities.” Yet, the order also states, “Students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Moreover, each year, states must provide a list of districts or local schools that have “a policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer.” And Fox News notes, “States are also required to report local schools that do not certify to the state that they don’t have unconstitutional prayer policies.”

While anti-religious zealots complained that Trump’s budding theocracy “undermines” civil rights and will have “dire consequences” for homosexuals and religious minorities, the truth is that he’s doing what he was elected to do — protect the religious liberty enshrined in the First Amendment.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised the administration’s new rules, saying, “For years, we’ve watched secularists pressure school administrators into telling students that they can’t pray, read their Bibles, or talk about their faith in class. Now, the tables are turned. For once, the onus isn’t on kids or districts to defend their freedoms — it’s on states to certify that they’re compliant and respectful of these basic rights. Thanks to President Trump, the government is finally standing up to schoolyard bullies who make a living trying to intimidate and silence students.”

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