Will Trump defy pressure to betray religious liberty promises?
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Will Trump defy pressure to betray religious liberty promises?

Posted February 03, 2017 06:00 AM by Daniel Horowitz, Nate Madden church
Don McCullough | Flickr


The anticipation behind a Pres. Trump executive order protecting religious liberty within the federal government would appear to be all for naught, according to a recent report, leaving social conservative concerns out in the cold.

As Politico’s Annie Karni reported Friday:

 

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump helped lead the charge to scuttle a draft executive order that would have overturned Obama-era enforcements of LGBT rights in the workplace, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO.

A draft executive order on LGBT rights — which outlines how to roll back former president Barack Obama’s protections and expand legal exemptions based on religious beliefs has been circulating among journalists and worried progressive groups this week.

Put simply, the draft executive order is balanced, solid, commonsense, and worthy of immediate signage. Others in the White House, however, see things differently.

“There are some in Trump’s family that have some views on these things,” a source close to the discussions told Karni. “That’s where the decision is ultimately being made.”

If true, this is horrible news for the voters who helped bring Trump across the November finish line on his promises to protect religious liberty (among other social conservative concerns). In fact, such a blatant reversal would constitute nothing short of a betrayal of those coalitions.

“This president’s number one priority is demonstrating to the people that got him elected that he is doing the people’s business,” the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano told Politico.

And Carafano’s right — the 2016 election was a referendum on Barack Obama and the Left’s criminalization of Christianity. And countless social conservatives were willing to look past a great many things of their GOP nominee in pursuit of those promises.  

During his RNC acceptance speech in Cleveland, Donald Trump recognized that it was evangelicals who brought him to the ball. Right alongside the assuaging promises for a worthy successor to Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court were irrefutable promises to protect human life and the consciences of private-sector businesses to service ideas that violated their deeply held convictions rooted in our history and tradition.

The people elected a president who promised to 1) protect their religious liberty, by signing the First Amendment Defense Act; 2) abolish the Johnson Amendment; and 3) ending the taxpayer funding of the abortion giant Planned Parenthood. Had those voters really wanted a continuation of Obama’s extreme anti-religious zealousness, they could have easily voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton instead. 

Overturning prima facie discrimination against anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the Left’s sexual identity agenda is more important than changing longstanding Johnson Amendment policy. And, in fact, administration officials promised conservatives this would be done. This is why conservatives backed off the legislative fight to overturn Obama’s discriminatory order in the national defense bill after the election.   

While religious liberty opponents claim that because Trump made overtures to the sexual identity lobby during the campaign — and that this promise would contradict the other — is made on a patently false (albeit popular) assumption that rests on the gross mischaracterization that religious liberty protections are “anti-LGBT.”

Rather, as The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson explains at The Daily Signal: “Opponents to the executive order misrepresent the order by claiming it would repeal an Obama-era executive order elevating LGBT status to a protected class in federal contracts … Rather, it protects the religious liberty rights of all Americans in very tailored ways that address problems of today.”

The notion that barring government contracts with businesses that believe in authentic marriage or don’t have men use female bathrooms in their corporate offices is somehow “anti-” anything is absurd. Quite the contrary. Doing business with any contractor irrespective of their views is the default position. Barring those who don’t have transgender bathroom accommodations is itself discriminatory and sets a horrible precedent in the private sector. Let liberty work.

Pres. Trump would be the best ambassador for this message; it would fit right into his branding.  He could sign this executive order and say, “Look, I’m a businessman and I want to get the job done. If you are a contractor who gets the job done, you’re hired. If not, you’re fired! I don’t care about what you do in your offices, and I have no plans to discriminate against any side of social debates in this country. In order to get government out of this debate, I’m repealing Obama’s discriminatory and ill-conceived order that has only further divided this country.”

Trump must also remember that by catering to the sexual identity boycott lobby, he will never win a single new vote and will only divide and demoralize his own base. The same individuals and powers behind the immigration-related protests and boycotts are behind the boycotts against religious institutions.

In the first few weeks of the Trump administration, there have been some soundly fulfilled promises worthy of applause from conservatives.

This, however, does not look like one of them.Some might just call anything they read in Politico “fake news.” But this is not just coming from Politico. Everyone knows that these liberal forces are in the White House and conservatives will not win these policy fights by remaining complacent. Conservatives must remember: We can’t be like liberals and hope for change. We must ensure of change. Trust, but verify™. 

This is doubly true when it comes to social conservatives, who have essentially been relegated to the back of the bus in the Republican Party … even though their ideas are codified in the GOP platform that Trump praised. 

This current situation could be very well be, as The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano told Politico, the avoidance of an “unforced error” early in the administration. This could very well just be one piece of an “Art of the Deal” brand puzzle that will dazzle us all in due time.

But “hope,” warns Francis Bacon, “is a good breakfast, but … a bad supper.”

Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religious freedom, jihadism, and the judiciary. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A Publius Fellow, John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate’s writing has previously appeared in several religious and news publications. Follow him @NateMaddenCR and on Facebook. 

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.