Trump Signs Executive Order Advancing Global Religious Freedom

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The First Amendment is a funny thing. While interpreted erroneously by many to suggest that true freedom includes never having to witness an expression of faith in the public sphere, it actually protects the rights of all citizens of our nation to worship freely and openly.

Like all the rights protected by the Constitution, religious freedom was understood as being protected by God.

So a belief in religious freedom presumes the existence of a Creator God who has endowed all men with this sacred right.

Not only is our nation dedicated to preserving religious freedom within our borders, but in ensuring that it is advanced around the world.

This has always been a touchstone of the Trump administration’s foreign policy and today the President signed an executive order which reiterated his determination to protect religious liberties around the world.

The order states:

Religious freedom, America’s first freedom, is a moral and national security imperative.  Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the United States, and the United States will respect and vigorously promote this freedom.  As stated in the 2017 National Security Strategy, our Founders understood religious freedom not as a creation of the state, but as a gift of God to every person and a right that is fundamental for the flourishing of our society.

Religious communities and organizations, and other institutions of civil society, are vital partners in United States Government efforts to advance religious freedom around the world.  It is the policy of the United States to engage robustly and continually with civil society organizations — including those in foreign countries — to inform United States Government policies, programs, and activities related to international religious freedom.

Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State (Secretary) shall, in consultation with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), develop a plan to prioritize international religious freedom in the planning and implementation of United States foreign policy and in the foreign assistance programs of the Department of State and USAID.

The order states that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “shall direct Chiefs of Mission in countries of particular concern, countries on the Special Watch List, countries in which there are entities of particular concern, and any other countries that have engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom …”

The Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury shall … develop recommendations to prioritize the appropriate use of economic tools to advance international religious freedom in countries of particular concern, countries on the Special Watch List, countries in which there are entities of particular concern, and any other countries that have engaged in or tolerated violations of religious freedom as noted in the report required by section 102(b) of the Act. …

The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may consider imposing sanctions under Executive Order 13818 of December 20, 2017 (Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption), which, among other things, implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Public Law 114-328).

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