Of Proclamations & Executive Orders

Of Proclamations & Executive Orders

2017 | Week of May 8 | #1202

Last Thursday, May 4 was a day showing elections really do have consequences. On that day, President Trump issued a proclamation[1] and an Executive Order[2], both of which deal with religious freedom.

The proclamation recognizes the National Day of Prayer which was last Thursday. I was immediately struck with the tone of President Trump’s proclamation, especially in comparison to that issued by President Obama last year.[3]

President Obama’s used the words God or Lord three times. Lord is used in the formal “in witness whereof” section, “in the year of our Lord.” President Trump’s proclamation invokes the words God or Lord seven times. Lord is used in the formal “in witness whereof” and also in a quotation from George Washington. Some will say this count is meaningless. I disagree. Whoever wrote the proclamations was instructed to reflect the sentiments of the president. Donald Trump is obviously more at ease referencing God than was President Obama.

As to content, listen to the second paragraph of President Trump’s proclamation:  We are also reminded and reaffirm that all human beings have the right, not only to pray and worship according to their consciences, but to practice their faith in their homes, schools, charities, and businesses in private and in the public square free from government coercion, discrimination, or persecution.  Religion is not merely an intellectual exercise, but also a practical one that demands action in the world.  Even the many prisoners around the world who are persecuted for their faith can pray privately in their cells.  But our Constitution demands more:  the freedom to practice one’s faith publicly.

It’s been at least eight years since I’ve read sentiments such as this expressed in an official federal government document, especially from a president. Last year, President Obama wrote, Our country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, and we have long upheld the belief that how we pray and whether we pray are matters reserved for an individual’s own conscience.  On National Day of Prayer, we rededicate ourselves to extending this freedom to all people.”

President Trump laid out a solid case for religious freedom in action; President Obama’s was much more about freedom of worship—and there’s a world of important difference.

The Executive Order President Trump issued last Thursday, while addressing religious freedom, is quite different from the proclamation. The wording in this presidential action is less inspiring than what is in the proclamation. More importantly, the order is lean on specifics and long on phrases such as “to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law.”  That said, even a rather fluffy and vague executive order regarding religious freedom beats the rescinding of religious freedom we’ve experienced over basically the last decade.

Essentially the Order leaves it to agencies and to the Attorney General to put any specific directives in place. Conservatives have run the gamut on the Executive Order, many taking the position that it is a fairly decent first step towards fulfilling President Trump’s campaign promise of ensuring all Americans are free to live and work, as well as worship, according to the dictates of their faith, without fear of government punishment.  Most have been willing to thank the president for the order while also calling on him to finish the job, recognizing much work remains to be done to fully restore our “first freedom.”

As for the liberals, the ACLU originally said it would file a lawsuit challenging the Order. However, after the Order was actually published, the ACLU issued a statement indicating they had changed their minds and would not be filing a lawsuit against the Order because there is in their words, “no discernible policy outcome.”  In other words, the Order doesn’t change current law.

All of this reminds me who we elect does matter. However, it also reminds me that “we the people” must remain informed and involved. President Trump needs to ensure great sounding words become solid policies and laws that truly protect our religious freedom.

For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/05/04/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-may-4-2017-national-day-prayer

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/05/04/presidential-executive-order-promoting-free-speech-and-religious-liberty

[3] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/05/04/presidential-proclamation-national-day-prayer-2016


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