It what many religious leaders are considering a major blow to those conducting the so-called “war on faith,” President Trump has signed an executive order that provides new guidance allowing for prayer in schools.
During an interview with Fox News, Dr. Robert Jeffress said that the order on “religious liberty,” marks “the beginning of the end of the war on faith.”
“It’s a right that’s been under assault from groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and liberal courts as well,” Jeffress, who is senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, said.
“I don’t think it’s any exaggeration at all to say, that no president in history has been a greater champion for religious liberty both in America and around the world than President Donald Trump,” he added.
Trump signed the new guidance on January 16, which is National Religious Freedom Day. Attending the signing ceremony was a group of students and teachers of all faiths – Christian, Jewish, and Muslim – who said they had been discriminated against for showing their faith in school.
Although students are allowed to meet and pray on school grounds, the Supreme Court banned “school-sponsored” prayer in public schools in a 1962 decision, saying it violated the First Amendment.
Trump said public schools too often stop students from praying and sharing their faith, adding the government must “never stand between the people and God.”
“It is totally unacceptable,” Trump said. “You see it on the football field. You see it so many times where they are stopped from praying and we are doing something to stop that.”
The order is similar to a 2003 guidance on school prayer, but it establishes a state-mandated filing process for complaints against local schools and school districts.
Under the executive order, states must send the federal government a list each year of local schools and districts that have “a policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer,” in public schools. States are also required to report local schools that do not certify to the state that they don’t have unconstitutional prayer policies.
In addition to the updated guidance on prayer in schools, the Trump administration also took action across nine federal agencies, releasing proposed rules to ensure religious organizations are not discriminated against by the federal government.
The White House Office of Management and Budget will also direct federal agencies to ensure states and other recipients of federal grants don’t engage in religious discrimination.
“You have things happening today that 10 or 15 years ago would have been unthinkable,” Trump said in response to a question about his views on the culture wars. “Taking the word God down, taking the word Christmas out. I think we’ve turned that one around very good. I think we’ve turned both of them around very good.”