May 4 in the Rose Garden on the White House lawn, on the very same day as the National Day of Prayer, President Donald J. Trump signed the Presidential Executive Order, "Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty." You can read this brief Presidential Executive Order here.
On the 107th day of his presidency, the President and his administration did more to promote religious freedom than the previous administration did in eight years. This step is a step in the right direction.
This is a Step Forward for Religious Liberty
This is a step forward for religious liberty in America. While some may be disappointed that it does not do more and go farther, please understand, at least it is a forward step. Usually, nothing is done easily or rapidly in Washington, DC. Leading people in a massive organization, government, corporation, or even church is a process.
This is a step forward in the right direction for preserving and forwarding one of our greatest freedoms, religious liberty. The President was more than clear in his speech in the Rose Garden that religious freedom comes from God, and is not granted to us by the government.
The overreach of government regarding religious liberty issues has not just been apparent, but accelerating. It has been a major and growing issue, concern, and threat for all people of faith. Therefore, I am more than hopeful that what occurred last Thursday will not be the end, but a new point of beginning for our future as a nation. At the very least, it is a reversal in our immediate past trajectory regarding the freedom of religion.
Why It Was a Personal Joy to Be Present in the Rose Garden
While in the Rose Garden experiencing this moment in American history, I was overwhelmed with personal gratitude. Why?
At one point a few years ago, I became a target because I took a stand for a biblical and Christian worldview about various moral issues. As I did then and always will in the future, I teach and lead our people to see moral issues through the lens and the authority of the Holy Scripture. That experience was a difficult and learning time for me personally and professionally.
It was also a personal joy because in the fall of 2014, I was invited to speak at a major rally in support of five pastors in Houston, Texas, whose sermons were subpoenaed by the Mayor of Houston. As I spoke that night to over 6,000 people present and to a live simulcast, it was a significant moment in my life. This overreach of government was apparent and demonstrated its acceleration in America. Since then, the acceleration has continued. I do hope these five pastors and others who have been targeted are encouraged by what occurred on Thursday.
This Presidential Executive Order is in clear support of religious liberty. It says, "It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom."
While some prognosticate about whether this is needed, I want to assure you, it is. Whether a pastor knew about or felt influenced by the Johnson Amendment is not the issue. The issue is having the freedom to articulate the claims of Scripture in the pulpits in America without fear or intimidation. This is America, where freedom is celebrated. Therefore, this Executive Order is welcome.
The Next Step
I am more than hopeful that what happened on May 4 was the first step of many that will forward religious freedom to every American for decades to come. Prohibiting the free exercise of religion in any way is always an overreach of government and is against on what our country was founded.
The Constitution does make this provision so that every American can live out their faith wherever they are without wondering if they will be penalized for it. Whether you are in business or healthcare, in the military or pastoring a church, in education or in retirement, the free exercise of your religion should always be permitted. Yes, even to the atheist who does not believe there is a God.
The next step I pray will be another step forward for religious liberty in America.