Today, President Trump’s Department of Justice released its Religious Freedom Guidance. We applaud the clear and robust language used to ensure our religious freedom is protected.
As President Trump said, “Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation…[and the administration] will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.” He promised that this administration would “lead by example on religious liberty” and he is delivering on that promise. Read Short Overview of Guidance.
The guidance applies to all federal departments and agencies, and provides 20 guiding principles. It includes the interpretation of current law like the Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, Article VI, Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Executive Orders that apply to federal contracts.
In a separate document, the Department of Justice describes how it will immediately implement the guidance into litigation strategy, and review all rulemaking and agency action to ensure that it complies with RFRA.
The Guidance states that:
“Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place. It also encompasses religious observance and practice. Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law.”
“The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.”
It is significant to mention that the Guidance notes that government may not exclude religious organizations from secular aid programs. It also states that the IRS may not enforce the Johnson amendment. This is welcome news to churches and non-profit organizations.