Trump signs order to give faith groups stronger voice in government

IMAGE: CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In front of a small crowd of cabinet members
and religious leaders at the White House Rose Garden May 3, President Donald
Trump announced, and then signed, an executive order giving faith-based groups a
stronger voice in the federal government.

a great day,” he said after signing the order and passing out pens to religious
leaders who surrounded him outside on the spring morning for the National Day
of Prayer event.

details about the order were given at the ceremony, but religious leaders were reminded
of the work they do in caring for those in need and were assured by the
president that their religious freedom would continue to be protected by the
federal government.

A White
House document posted online after the order was signed said its purpose was to
ensure that faith-based and community organizations “have strong advocates”
in the White House and the federal government.

It said
the “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” would provide recommendations
on programs and policies where faith-based and community organizations could
partner with the government to “deliver more effective solutions to

It also
pointed out that the new office would enable the Trump administration to know of failures, within
the executive branch, of complying with religious liberty protections and would
ensure that faith-based organizations have “equal access to government
funding and equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.”

The initiative
will be led by the newly created position of adviser to the White House Faith
and Opportunity Initiative and will be supported by community and faith leaders
outside of the federal government. It will have designated liaisons
from executive departments and federal agencies.

A faith-based
office is not new to the White House. Previous administrations, including those
of Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, had similar offices.

The May
3 ceremony to announce this office began with a series of prayers, led
first by Vice President Mike Pence, who also told the crowd that he and the
president frequently have people telling them: “We’re praying for

He said
the Bible “tells us to persevere in prayer” and noted that the
American people do this every day and would do this in a particular way during
the National Day of Prayer when many would “bow a head or bend a knee”
to pray for the nation.

told the crowd that “believers of every background have a champion in President
Trump,” and he reminded them of Trump’s executive order signed a year ago,
also in a Rose Garden ceremony, which he said assured people of faith that “no
one would be penalized for their religious beliefs.”

The new executive order takes that a step further, he added.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, one of several faith leaders to deliver a prayer from a
podium on the White House lawn, prayed that people would have the grace to stay
close to God and one another. He also prayed for government leaders and for believers
to have the strength and courage to stand up for their faith.

Trump said
prayer has “forged the identity of this nation” and has also
sustained it.

He told
the group that the new office was a necessary step because in solving many of
today’s problems and challenges, “faith is more powerful than government
and nothing is more powerful than God.”

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Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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