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President Trump’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty: A Missed Opportunity?

By Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield, Founder FaithInspires.Org

This afternoon President Trump leveraged off the National Day of Prayer to sign a much anticipated Executive Order expanding and expressing support for religious freedom. Many Christian leaders welcomed his action as signaling a welcome change in the Washington mindset, or at least a step in the right direction.

Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel had this reaction “We commend President Trump for sending a message to Congress and the rest of America that religious freedom must be protected. This is an appropriate way to commemorate the National Day of Prayer as our President commits to protect and promote religious freedom,”

Meanwhile Carl Anderson CEO of the Knights of Columbus had this to say, “We applaud President Trump’s executive order on religious liberty. While there is still work to be done to restore the reverence for religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment, this order marks an important step in restoring those constitutional principles guaranteed to every American. Guided by their beliefs, people of faith contribute in important ways to every aspect of this country, and this order will begin to restore the principles upon which this country was based: that people of faith should be able to exercise that faith with the protection rather than the opposition of their government.”

A leding Hispanic Evangelical added, “This new executive order not only signals President Trump and Vice President Pence’s commitment to fighting for and representing the Evangelical community, but also the larger struggle for religious liberty. For years now, people of faith—especially Christians—have been essentially told that their faith has no place beyond their front door. A subversive oppression has taken a hold of our nation and sincerely held beliefs are subject to not only social ridicule but also legal retribution.” Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez President National Hispanic Christian  Leadership Conference.

Today’s executive order among other things provided relief from the so called Johnson Amendment. This provision enacted in the 1960’s greatly restricted endorsements of political candidates by non-profit groups including churches. This has been a very unpopular provision among evangelical Christians and others since. So rolling it back even if by a bit will meet with at least some pleasure among those groups.

But will it be enough. An earlier draft of the executive order would have provided a much wider range of protections. Especially for average Christians ( as opposed to clergy, churches and ministries.) who acted or refused to act out of religious conscience. From what I can gather it was Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump that convinced the president to leave these additional protections out of the EO. Over time I fear this will be seen as the loss of an opportunity to cement the president’s relationship with a core part of his winning coalition.

My personal opinion is that as time passes today’s order will be seen as doing very little to advance the wishes of evangelical Christians, and will have done much more to anger those on the left. The result will be to leave us father from common ground on some issues not closer. For someone who sees himself as a master negotiator, this move seems like more of a weak compromise than anything else. Evangelicals are growing tired of weak compromises and disappointments. Today’s executive order may cost the administration more than it gains.

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Rev. Franklin Graham Joins Tony Perkins on the Radio to Discuss the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ — Yesterday, Rev. Franklin Graham appeared on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins, a national radio show which airs on more than 240 stations across the country. On the show, Graham discussed the persecution of Christians around the world and the need to stand for religious liberty both at home and overseas.

Rev. Graham has worked to respond to the genocide against Christians around the world by putting a spotlight on this issue, “It’s because of what is happening at an alarming rate around the world, where thousands of Christians have been killed, it’s around a 100,000 a year are being killed just for their faith. We’re seeing entire areas of the Middle East that are being eradicated.” Graham went on, “This is happening not just at the hands of Islam but, we see around the world where Christians, where they’re the minority, where they’re being persecuted. I want our politicians to see what’s happening and I want the voices of these people who have been persecuted, I want their voices to be heard. I want to give them a stage for them to be able to tell their stories and do it right there in Washington where hopefully we can see some policy changes.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, the host of Washington Watch, added, “I’m not sure people realize just how significant this problem is, Christians throughout the world were killed for no other reason than that they follow Jesus Christ. And that has been growing over the last few years.”

“I think in large part it’s driven by the indifference toward religious freedom here at home. It’s sending a message to the terrorists and tyrants abroad that they’re free to do as they please when it comes to Christians.” concluded Perkins.

Pastor and His Family Arrested in China After Meeting with U.S. Consulate Officials

WENZHOU, Zhejiang, China, April 29, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang province incarcerated a pastor, his wife and son on Tuesday for contacting U.S. Consulate officials in Shanghai and foreign journalists.

Wen Xiaowu, a pastor, and his wife, both of whom provided legal defense counsel for churches affected by an ongoing cross demolition campaign, were criminally detained on April 26 and charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” His son, Wen “Eden” Yidian was taken into police custody on the same day for “obstructing public service.”

Family members, however, believe that the detentions are in response to the couple’s meetings with officials from the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai and a number of foreign journalists, during which they released developments on the cross demolitions. Zhang Kai, a prominent human rights lawyer, experienced a similarly sudden detention in August 2015 just a few days before he was scheduled to meet with U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein.

Wen Xiaowu and his wife are currently being held in the Rui’an Detention Center in Zhejiang. They have not been allowed to meet with family members. Authorities also confiscated various personal items, including computers, from their home in Wenzhou.

“Arresting Pastor Wen and his family members for these meetings is a direct slap in the face to the U.S. government and the American people,” said China Aid president Bob Fu, who is a friend of the Wen family. “He is a man with integrity and passion who is always ready to help others. Despite the constant threats state security agents posed to him and his family in the past few years, he and his wife have been boldly providing legal counsel for churches and persecuted human rights defenders in Zhejiang. I urge the U.S. government to work with the Chinese authorities for the immediate release of the Wen family and other innocent church leaders who are under arrest.”

China Aid will update this story as more information becomes available.

China Aid exposes abuses such as those experienced by Wen Xiaowu and his family in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.

Pastor Saeed Released After Being Held in an Iranian Prison for Over Three and One Half Years

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — Faith leaders to hold news conference to discuss Pastor Saeed’s release and continued efforts to fight for religious freedom around the world.
The news conference will be at 2:00 P.M. today, January 16, at 109 2nd St. NE Washington, D.C. (Right behind the Supreme Court)
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, has been a strong advocate for Pastor Saeed, leading numerous prayer vigils and demonstrations in Washington, D.C. and across the nation, traveling to Turkey to meet with Iranian officials to work for his release, speaking in churches, praying with Pastor Saeed’s wife and family and working with members of Congress.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney states;
“First of all, we thank God for this incredible victory. What an incredible and glorious day for Pastor Saeed, Naghmeh, their two precious children and his entire extended family. We rejoice that he will soon be home free to live his Christian faith without intimidation, persecution and harassment.
“We thank the millions around the world who prayed daily for his release and worked passionately for his release and stood as a loud voice for religious freedom and the persecuted church around the world. We also thank the Obama Administration for their continued efforts in bringing Pastor Saeed home and securing his release.
“In the midst of our celebration however, let us remember the millions of Christians who are still being persecuted, brutalized and tortured for their faith. Let Pastor Saeed’s release inspire the Christian community, President Obama and the free nations of the world to be even a louder and bolder voice for religious freedom and human rights around the world. We can never be silent on these issues.
“We encourage everyone to pray for the Abedini family as Saeed returns home and they move forward with their lives.”
Rev. Rob Schenck, President of Faith and Action, adds;
“The Bible says ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice.’ We are rejoicing with Pastor Saeed and his family. I am also grateful for all those who prayed and worked very hard behind the scenes–even taking great risks to bring about this wonderful day.
“I will also tell a story untold to date about a particular high-ranking public official that did more than others to move forward Pastor Saeed’s release.”

Broad Coalition Urges President Obama ‘Fill Vacant Special Envoy Post’

WASHINGTON,  April 20, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ — More than 50 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scholars, religious leaders, and human rights advocates sent a letter urging President Obama to swiftly fill the vacant post of Special Envoy for Religious Minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. Despite the President signing a law in August 2014 creating this position, he has yet to appoint the Special Envoy.

This envoy, subject to direction by the President and the Secretary of State, is to represent the United States in matters and cases relevant to religious freedom for imperiled religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. The Special Envoy’s duties would include promoting religious freedom, monitoring religious intolerance, and denouncing rights violations.

“A senior diplomat at the State Department focused exclusively on protecting and preserving these ancient faith communities is long overdue,” said former Congressman Frank R. Wolf. “The crisis facing Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities in countries like Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Iran cannot be overstated. It is time for the president to follow through on his signature. There is no good reason not to appoint a Special Envoy.”

The newly-formed 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative spearheaded the effort to send the NGO letter to the President. Forty-three members of Congress sent a similar bicameral bipartisan letter last week asking the President to fill the position and highlighting the bleak situation facing religious minorities throughout the region, foremost among them Christians and Yezidis, who have been violently targeted by the Islamic State.

The congressional letter was led by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Randy Forbes (R-VA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

“Congressman Wolf and I met with representatives from the suffering Christian and Yezidi communities in Iraq,” said Randel Everett, President and Founder of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. “They repeatedly told us that they felt abandoned by the West—both policymakers and faith leaders. The simple act of filling this post would send a clear signal that the United States recognizes the gravity of the situation.”

Gov. Huckabee, Reps. Jordan, Fortenberry Join FRC Action for Webcast on Religious Liberty June 19, 2012

English: Congressional portrait of Congressman...

English: Congressional portrait of Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, 112th Congress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Family Research Council Action (FRC Action), the legislative advocacy arm of the Family Research Council, will host Governor Mike Huckabee, along with Congressmen Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska) for a special video webcast program where Christians from across denominational lines will come together in an event that will mark the beginning of a two week period of nationwide prayer and action in support of religious liberty. This First Freedom is threatened by the Department of Health and Human Services which has approved – for the first time in American history – new federal regulations that would force healthcare plans to cover abortion drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations. Rallies being held across the country and the numerous lawsuits filed against the mandate have sent a message that Christians will not give up this constitutionally guaranteed right.

The program, entitled “Two Weeks for Freedom: Christians Standing Together for Religious Freedom” will be webcast live online today, June 19, 2012 at 8 p.m. EDT, at http://www.frcaction.org/twoweeks.

WHO:

Governor Mike Huckabee

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Chairman, Republican Study Committee

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska)

Tony Perkins, President, FRC Action

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life

Terry Jeffrey, Editor-in-Chief, CNS News

Dr. Joe Aguillard, President, Louisiana College

Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President, FRC Action

Melissa Silvers, Associate Director of Government Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

WHAT: Live webcast entitled “Two Weeks for Freedom: Christians Standing Together for Religious Freedom”

WHERE: Online at http://www.frcaction.org/twoweeks

WHEN: 8 p.m. EDT, today, June 19, 2012