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Trump's Religious Freedom Order a 'Nothing-Burger,' Conservatives Say

Trump's Religious Freedom Order a 'Nothing-Burger,' Conservatives Say

Ryan Anderson, a senior fellow at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, wrote in an op-ed published by the Daily Signal that Trump's religious liberty order "fails to address most pressing religious liberty threats" and criticized the language for being too soft.

"Today's executive order is woefully inadequate. Trump campaigned promising Americans that he would protect their religious liberty rights and correct the violations that took place during the previous administration," Anderson wrote. "Trump's election was about correcting problems of the last administration, including religious liberty violations and the hostility to people of faith in the United States. This order does not do that. It is a mere shadow of the original draft leaked in February."

Anderson added that the order is simply "general language about the importance of religious liberty, saying the executive branch 'will honor and enforce' existing laws and instructing the Department of Justice to 'issue guidance' on existing law; directives to the Department of the Treasury to be lenient in the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment; and directives to the secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) to 'consider issuing amended regulations' to 'address conscience-based objections' to the HHS contraception mandate."

Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board who attended the signing ceremony, told The Christian Post that it is "unrealistic" for Christian conservatives to think that Trump can solve all religious liberty issues in one executive order.

"What I mean by that is that over the last eight years, the Obama administration was so thorough in their dismantling of religious liberty and their attack on conservatives, evangelicals, traditional Catholics and people of faith, it would be impossible to fix all that in one sweeping action," Moore explained. "That's why this is the beginning. He's instructing the Department of Justice and the Department of Treasury to take specific policy actions and to evaluate which policies have inhibited religious freedom and addressing them."

"I think all those guys, while I appreciate the voice of those who have been advocates for religious freedom for a long time, I think they ought to be celebrating today and give credit where credit is due," Moore added. "That is to a president who is a friend to conservative Christians in this country."

In a statement, Focus on the Family founder and prominent evangelical leader James Dobson praised the order and said that Trump's action "must be the first among others because the efforts by previous administrations to marginalize conservative communities of faith were real, thorough and complex."

"I have been privileged to serve five presidents. I've witnessed the ebb and flow of politics in this country for a half century, and I prayed with great anxiety about the future as I watched President Obama move this nation in a direction that defied the Constitution, especially as it relates to religious liberty," Dobson said. "In all these years I've never found myself more optimistic about the preservation of our Judeo Christian values as I am today."

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said in a statement that Thursday's order only "starts the process of reversing the devastating trend set by the last administration to punish charities, pastors, family owned businesses and honest, hard-working people simply for living according to their faith."

"In working with the Trump administration, it is clear that they both recognize and understand the dangers of the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and are therefore committed to undoing those policies and restoring true religious freedom," Perkins assured.

"The President's executive order is a clear reflection of his campaign promise to protect the religious freedoms of Americans," Perkins added. "President Trump is taking a significant first step to defending religious liberty."

Even before the final language of the order has been published by the White House, the American Civil Liberties Union has already vowed to file a lawsuit against the order. Earlier this week, other liberal and pro-LGBT organizations also threatened to take legal action against the order.

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