Catholic League: On Religious Liberty, Trump is 'More Catholic Than JFK Was'

By Michael W. Chapman | May 11, 2020 | 12:20pm EDT
President Donald Trump and former President John F. Kennedy.  (Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and former President John F. Kennedy. (Getty Images)

(CNSNews) -- After Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the Archdiocese of New York, was criticized for praising President Donald Trump's actions in defense of religious liberty, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights challenged the critics to compare Trump's achievements with those of the Obama administration. 

Catholic League President Bill Donohue stressed, "Trump is fair game for criticism on many issues, but when it comes to the defense of religious liberty, he is more Catholic than JFK was."

(Public domain.)
(Public domain.)

In its defense of Cardinal Dolan and President Trump, the Catholic League prepared a list of Trump's religious liberty achievements over the last three-plus years. Below is a rundown of some of those successes, not all of them.

-- In October 2017, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. will provide direct assistance to persecuted Christians in the Middle East instead of through the United Nations. As reported by Breitbart, Pence announced, “Our fellow Christians and all who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly.... And from this day [10/26/17] forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID."

-- On Jan. 2, 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced changes in federal disaster funding that would include private non-profit houses of worship. 

-- In January 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the formation of a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The purpose of the division is to "restore federal enforcement of our nation's laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable right of conscience and religious freedom."

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

-- In January 2018, the Justice Department designated a new section in the U.S. Attorney's Manual specifically devoted to the protection of religious liberty. The section, entitled "Associate Attorney General’s Approval and Notice Requirements for Issues Implicating Religious Liberty" will require all U.S. Attorney Offices to set up a point of contact for any civil suit involving religious freedom or liberty.

-- In February 2019, the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos, introduced a proposed program that would allow for tax-exempt donations to reputable government programs to be used for local private school scholarships across the country. This program will allow local private schools, including religious schools, to receive state and locally funded scholarships and funds.

-- In April 2019, the Office of Personnel Management finalized rules and guidelines that will make it easier for religious federal employees to get time off for religious observances and holidays

  (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

-- In May 2019, HHS announced a final rule that would protect individuals and health care entities in HHS programs that exercise their conscience from discrimination. 

-- In May 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed the revision of a rule that would give religious exemptions to HUD grant recipients that choose to place transgender persons in housing based on their biological sex

-- In July 2019, the State Department hosted the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. As part of the Ministerial, President Trump met with 27 survivors of global religious persecution in a meeting in the Oval Office.

-- On July 8, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights. The purpose of the commission is to emphasize the role of human rights and natural law both domestically and internationally. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the Archdiocese of New York.  (Getty Images)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the Archdiocese of New York. (Getty Images)

-- In September 2019, in recognition of National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week, President Trump announced that his administration would be lifting restrictions on capital financing for Historically Black Colleges and Seminaries. 

-- At the U.N. General Assembly in September 2019, President Trump hosted a call to religious freedom event at the U.N. headquarters. In his remarks, he announced the formation of a coalition of U.S. businesses for the protection of religious freedom and announced that his administration will allocate $25 million in funds for the protection of religious freedom and religious sites around the world. 

-- In a speech given to Notre Dame Law School on October 11, 2019, Attorney General William Barr denounced militant secularist assaults on religious liberty. "From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States," said Barr in his speech. "The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government."

-- On November 1, 2019, HHS announced a proposed rule change that would sustain federal funding for faith-based grantees that refuse to provide adoption services to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs. 

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League.  (Screenshot, CNN)
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League. (Screenshot, CNN)

-- In November 2019, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) announced the creation of the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project Database. The purpose of the database is "to heighten awareness of people imprisoned in countries cracking down on religious expression and encourage advocacy for them." 

-- In November 2019, President Trump announced recognition of the legal status of Israeli communities in the West Bank, overturning a 40 year policy. 

-- In December 2019, President Trump signed an executive order that will allow for the cutting of federal funds to colleges and universities that do not curb anti-Semitic discrimination on campus.  

-- In December 2019, the U.S. Senate reauthorized funding for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as part of its 2019-2020 budget.

-- Between 2017 and 2019, the Department of Justice obtained 14 convictions in cases involving attacks or threats against places of worship

-- On January 16, 2020, the Trump Administration announced a proposed rule that would promote religious freedom by withholding federal grants from college campuses that do not allow for the equal treatment of faith-based groups and organizations. In addition, the Department of Education also announced updated guidelines that would protect students and teachers that wish to pray in elementary and secondary schools

(Public domain.)
(Public domain.)

-- In March 2020, HHS’s Office of Civil Rights reaffirmed provisions that would protect people from being denied medical supplies based on religious belief. 

-- In April 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the inclusion of faith-based organizations in funding under the federal government coronavirus stimulus package.

-- In April 2020, the Department of Justice released a statement in support of a Mississippi church that was fined for holding a drive-in church service during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a speech on Sept. 23, 2019 at a United Nations event devoted to religious liberty, President Trump said, "The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government; they come from God.  This immortal truth is proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights."

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions," he said. 

"Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution," said the president.  "To stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief, protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed, America stands with believers in every country who ask only for the freedom to live according to the faith that is within their own hearts."

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