President Donald Trump signed an executive order creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, expanding upon previous administrations' faith-based initiatives.
At a National Day of Prayer event held at the White House Rose Garden on Thursday morning that featured speakers of diverse religious backgrounds, President Trump signed the executive order.
"The executive branch wants faith-based and community organizations, to the fullest opportunity permitted by law, to compete on a level playing field for grants, contracts, programs, and other Federal funding opportunities," reads the order in part.
"The efforts of faith-based and community organizations are essential to revitalizing communities, and the Federal Government welcomes opportunities to partner with such organizations through innovative, measurable, and outcome-driven initiatives."
In his remarks at the Rose Garden event, Trump championed his administration's efforts to protect the religious liberty of people both in the United States and overseas and labeled the executive order a "historic action."
"The faith initiative will help design new policies that recognize the vital role of faith in our families, in our communities, and our great country," stated Trump.
"This office will also help ensure that faith-based organizations will have equal access to government funding and the equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs. 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."
Critics of the new executive order, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, have argued that it will further advance discriminatory measures in the name of religion.
In a statement released Thursday, Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser blasted the executive order as "one more attempt by Trump, cheered by his Evangelical Advisory Board, to redefine religious freedom to mean the freedom to discriminate against those who do not share your religious beliefs."
"Our country is strongest when we are all free to believe, or not, as we see fit and to practice our faith without hurting others," stated Laser.
Last year, at the White House's National Day of Prayer observance, Trump used the event to officially sign an executive order meant to advance religious liberty.
The 2017 order received a mixed reaction from conservatives, many of whom felt that the measure did little to actually advance freedom of conscience.
"[The] executive order he signed today, while containing some helpful provisions for pastors and religious medical providers, falls far short of what is needed to protect people of faith from governmental persecution set in motion by the Obama administration," stated the National Organization for Marriage in 2017.
"President Trump talks eloquently about religious liberty and did so again today at a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. While he may sincerely believe in protecting religious liberty, his actual executive order does not do so in any meaningful way for the vast majority of people of faith."
The new order makes Trump the third president to have a White House office devoted to faith intiatives, after presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.