One of President Trump’s seemingly-endangered key campaign promise to religious conservatives would appear to still be on the table, according to a high-level adviser.
A Friday report from Axios’ Jonathan Swan reads:
Leonard Leo, an influential social conservative who advises the White House on judicial matters, tells me speculation that President Trump has abandoned a core campaign promise on religious rights — based on delays over an executive order — is misguided.
A strong religious liberty executive order surfaced early in Trump’s presidency but was summarily scuttled after immediate backlash from the LGBT lobby and a sympathetic media.
The Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Ryan Anderson urged the president not to cave despite the pressure, calling the order “good, lawful public policy” that “makes good on several promises then-candidate Trump made to his supporters.”
“These protections take nothing away from anyone, he continued in the op-ed at The Daily Signal, “they simply ensure that the public square remains open to all religious voices, even when those voices diverge from the government’s view on contested questions. They protect diversity and pluralism and tolerance.”
But Trump’s team is not abandoning the issue altogether, Leo told Axios. Rather, the administration’s attorneys’ bandwidth have been focused on internal negotiations about health insurance issues.
The admission comes days after 51 GOP lawmakers — spearheaded by Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, — sent a letter that lists several areas in which America’s first freedom stands to be protected and recovered. The letter urges President Trump to act on his campaign promises to protect American’s basic First Amendment rights.
“Because religious liberty is of such importance and under such threat, we believe that the draft executive order should be signed without delay,” the letter reads, adding that the order in question would “protect missions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years.”
The letter, naturally, was cast by critics as an effort by Republicans to strip protections from LGBT people, rather than an attempt to rollback Obama-era attacks on the fundamental rights of all Americans to freedom of religion and association, a distinction that has been debated to death at this point and is routinely ignored nonetheless.
After hearing Friday’s news about the order, Davidson told Conservative Review that he’s optimistic about the potential outcome.
“I think we’ll see one and I think they’ll take their time and get it right,” Davidson said over the phone. “He made a lot of commitments as a candidate, and some were about religious freedom. I think [Trump’s] working hard to strike the right balance here.”
Religious liberty has been one of the leading concerns for conservatives since the ravages of the Obama administration. Some of voters that drove Trump to an electoral victory in November did so based on his promises to protect their consciences. Now, as the first 100 days comes to a close, religious liberty advocates must still wait to find out when and how the president is going to make good on his commitments to the First Amendment.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect comments from Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio.