Today is Religious Freedom Day. It commemorates the day in 1786 when the Virginia General Assembly adopted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s statute became the foundation for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom, among other key liberties.
In recognition of the day, President Trump issued a proclamation acknowledging the vital importance of our “first freedom.” He also held an Oval Office meeting with students, teachers and coaches who have experienced harassment because of their faith, and he blasted the “growing totalitarian impulse on the far left that seeks to punish, restrict and even prohibit religious expression.”
There’s more. Nine federal departments today issued rules rolling back regulations that restrict religious liberty. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services, a vast bureaucracy responsible for a myriad of federal grant programs, issued new rules today eliminating barriers and discriminatory burdens against faith-based organizations.
The administration is also reminding states that, according to recent Supreme Court precedent, they cannot discriminate against religious institutions when awarding grants solely because the group applying is a church or faith-based school.
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Perhaps most significantly, the Department of Education announced that it is taking a series of actions to protect the First Amendment rights of students, student organizations and religious schools.
In other words, pro-life and faith-based student groups must be afforded the same rights and access to facilities as secular student groups. And public universities that cannot guarantee the free speech of conservative students will risk losing federal funding.
The Department of Education is also updating its guidance on constitutionally protected prayer and will notify states that students do not surrender their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door. In other words, students can’t be told that they are not allowed to quietly read Bibles in class or pray at lunch. Local school districts will be required to certify that they have no policies preventing constitutionally protected prayer.
I applaud the Trump/Pence Administration for once again standing up in defense of faith. Unlike the previous administration, which tried to bankrupt the Little Sisters of the Poor, this administration recognizes the tremendous importance of faith and is doing everything it can to protect our first freedoms.
LifeNews.com Note: Gary Bauer is the president of American Values, a national pro-family organization and is the former president of the Family Research Council. Bauer ran for the Republican nomination for president and appears frequently on radio and television programs.