Fulfilling yet another campaign promise, President Trump declared January 16, 2018, as “Religious Freedom Day,” pledging his ongoing defense of religious liberty.
“No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law,” Mr. Trump wrote in a presidential proclamation issued Tuesday.
During the lead-up to the 2016 elections, Trump promised to defend the religious freedom of Americans, criticizing Hillary Clinton’s wish to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptives in their health care plan “and having the government fine them heavily if they continue to refuse to abide by this onerous mandate.”
“That is a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump Administration,” he said in a letter dated Oct. 5, 2016.
In his proclamation, the President declares that the American Founders, “seeking refuge from religious persecution, believed in the eternal truth that freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.”
Trump said that he selected Jan. 16 as the date for the commemoration of Religious Freedom Day because it coincides with the passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom of January 16, 1786.
“This seminal bill, penned by Thomas Jefferson, states that, ‘all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities,’” Trump noted.
“Five years later, these principles served as the inspiration for the First Amendment, which affirms our right to choose and exercise faith without government coercion or reprisal,” he added.
Last month, the prominent evangelical leader Franklin Graham called President Donald Trump the most vocal defender of the Christian faith of any president in recent history.
“Never in my lifetime have we had [a president] willing to take such a strong outspoken stand for the Christian faith” like [Donald Trump],” Graham tweeted. “We need to get behind him with our prayers.”
In his proclamation Tuesday, the President underscored the right of Americans not only to religious belief but to public religious practice, a distinction considered fundamental by religious liberty advocates.
“Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion,” Trump wrote.
“Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification,” he noted.
“These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy,” he said.
The President also promised to be a defender of religious freedom beyond America’s borders, where religious persecution is often violated.
“The United States is also the paramount champion for religious freedom around the world, because we do not believe that conscience rights are only for Americans,” he said. “We will continue to condemn and combat extremism, terrorism, and violence against people of faith, including genocide waged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.”
Mr. Trump said that the United States will be “undeterred” in our commitment to monitor religious persecution and promote religious freedom. “Through these efforts, we strive for the day when people of all faiths can follow their hearts and worship according to their consciences,” he said.
“The free exercise of religion is a source of personal and national stability,” he said, “and its preservation is essential to protecting human dignity.”
“Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right,” he said.
In proclaiming the celebration of Religious Freedom Day, the President called on all Americans “to commemorate this day with events and activities that remind us of our shared heritage of religious liberty and teach us to secure this blessing both at home and abroad.”