Trump or­der wel­comes the faith­ful from out of the shad­ows.

A Trump or­der wel­comes the faith­ful from out of the shad­ows

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Far­ris

“To the great­est ex­tent prac­ti­ca­ble and per­mit­ted by law, re­li­gious ob­ser­vance and prac­tice should be rea­son­ably ac­com­mo­dated in all gov­ern­ment ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing em­ploy­ment, con­tract­ing, and pro­gram­ming.”

Last week’s pres­i­den­tial ex­ec­u­tive or­der — di­rect­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to stop find­ing ways to make it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple of faith to live out their be­liefs — is as welcome as it should be un­nec­es­sary.

To those who wrote our Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence and Con­sti­tu­tion, the need to let peo­ple serve the ex­i­gen­cies of their faith was as plainly “self-ev­i­dent” as the birthright of all men to “life, lib­erty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness.” If free­dom was the cor­ner­stone of the Amer­i­can soul, re­li­gious free­dom was the quarry that stone was carved from.

This is our national DNA — our po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and spir­i­tual iden­tity as Amer­i­cans.

That iden­tity has been in cri­sis for a while now. In the rush to em­brace (and be em­braced by) those press­ing var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and cul­tural agen­das, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials at ev­ery level have veered a long way off the course set by the Founders. Last week’s or­der was a pretty big, neon-lit sign from the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion, di­rect­ing, “This way back to the main road.”

“Re­li­gious lib­erty is not merely a right to per­sonal re­li­gious be­liefs or even to wor­ship in a sacred place,” the or­der reads — di­rectly con­tra­dict­ing ef­forts by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion to sub­sti­tute “free­dom of wor­ship” for “free­dom of re­li­gion.” That sub­sti­tu­tion was a way of con­strain­ing re­li­gious ex­pres­sion to the four walls of a church build­ing and a way of say­ing, “You can be what­ever

faith you are, you can do … what­ever it is you peo­ple do. Just stay inside. Keep it out of the cul­ture, out of the pub­lic square. We don’t want to have to see it or hear it or know it’s around.”

This new or­der rightly tor­pe­does that sophistry, af­firm­ing what ev­ery per­son of faith knows — that hold­ing that faith “also en­com­passes re­li­gious ob­ser­vance and prac­tice.” If re­li­gious faith is to have any mean­ing, those who hold it dear can’t move through the world like se­cret agents — or cow­er­ing fugi­tives — re­serv­ing their be­liefs for non­de­script hide­aways and some pri­vate cor­ner of their minds. To have a per­spec­tive on life has to mean liv­ing ac­cord­ing to that per­spec­tive.

The gov­ern­ment can’t or­der veg­e­tar­i­ans to eat meat. It can’t or­der Yan­kee fans to cheer for the Red Sox. And it shouldn’t be able to or­der Jews, Mus­lims, Mor­mons, Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses, Chris­tians or any­one else to sub­merge their faith, or em­brace ideas they don’t agree with.

A gov­ern­ment that would do that hasn’t the faintest grasp of what free­dom of speech or re­li­gion is about. Which is why the or­der af­firm­ing the First Amend­ment, also voices a pe­cu­liarly Amer­i­can kind of com­mon sense: “Ex­cept in the nar­row­est cir­cum­stances, no one should be forced to choose be­tween liv­ing out his or her faith and com­ply­ing with the law.”

“Amer­i­cans do not give up their free­dom of re­li­gion by par­tic­i­pat­ing in the mar­ket­place, par­tak­ing of the pub­lic square, or in­ter­act­ing with gov­ern­ment,” the or­der adds. “Free ex­er­cise of re­li­gion in­cludes the right to act or ab­stain from ac­tion in ac­cor­dance with one’s re­li­gious be­liefs.”

Not long ago, that idea was as much a given in Amer­ica as sun­shine in an Ari­zona sum­mer. Now we’ve come to the point where our pres­i­dent has to re­mind us — like a dad say­ing, “Don’t hit your sis­ter.”

Still, the sis­ter is thor­oughly glad to hear dad say it, as the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor were no doubt glad to hear our pres­i­dent’s ad­mo­ni­tion, as well as last week’s new di­rec­tive from the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. That memo ex­panded pro­tec­tions in the Obama-era abor­tion-pill man­date for or­ga­ni­za­tions with pro-life re­li­gious or moral con­vic­tions. The Oba­macare man­date com­pelled many em­ploy­ers, re­gard­less of those con­vic­tions, to pro­vide abor­tion-in­duc­ing drugs, ster­il­iza­tion and con­tra­cep­tion or face heavy penal­ties by the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice and other fed­eral agen­cies. It was all of a piece with other ef­forts by the last ad­min­is­tra­tion to shame, si­lence and pun­ish the “bitter clingers” hold­ing fast to their faith.

That at­ti­tude has fos­tered se­ri­ous prob­lems for fam­i­lies like the Van­der Boons in Michi­gan, who have been threat­ened with the ef­fec­tive clo­sure of their fam­ily-run busi­ness just for ex­press­ing a re­li­gious point of view on mar­riage that dif­fered from that of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Those same prob­lems have plagued Chris­tian artists and busi­ness own­ers — the florists, pho­tog­ra­phers and wed­ding cake de­sign­ers be­ing hounded and pe­nal­ized for ground­ing their kind­ness and gen­eros­ity to those whose views they dis­agree with in busi­ness poli­cies in­sep­a­ra­ble from their sin­cere faith.

On Dec. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court — which ruled 7-2 last spring in Trin­ity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer that sin­gling out re­li­gious Amer­i­cans for un­equal treat­ment by the gov­ern­ment “is odi­ous to our Con­sti­tu­tion … and can­not stand” — will be hear­ing the case of wed­ding cake de­signer Jack Phillips.

Here’s hop­ing the con­sti­tu­tional wis­dom of the Trin­ity de­ci­sion — and the con­sti­tu­tional com­mon sense of this most re­cent ex­ec­u­tive or­der — will be echoed in jus­tice for Mr. Phillips. And for other artists, busi­ness own­ers and peo­ple of faith all over Amer­ica.

ILLUSTRATION BY GREG GROESCH

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