Written by Don Byrd

In a speech at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., President Trump last week discussed the actions his administration has taken during his first year in office to promote his religious liberty agenda, as well as his determination to make sure everyone utters two magic words this December.

Here is that section of his remarks:

To protect religious liberty, including protecting groups like this one, I signed a new executive action in a beautiful ceremony at the White House on our National Day of Prayer — (applause) — which day we made official.  (Applause.) 

Among many historic steps, the executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises to so many of you: to prevent the horrendous Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  We will not allow government workers to censor sermons or target our pastors or our ministers or rabbis.  These are the people we want to hear from, and they’re not going to be silenced any longer.  (Applause.) 

Just last week, based on this executive action, the Department of Justice issued a new guidance to all federal agencies to ensure that no religious group is ever targeted under my administration.  It won’t happen.  (Applause.) 

We have also taken action to protect the conscience rights of groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor.  You know what they went through.  (Applause.)  What they went through — they were going through hell.  And then all of the sudden they won.  They said, how did that happen?  (Laughter.) 

We want to really point out that the Little Sisters of the Poor and other people of faith, they live by a beautiful calling, and we will not let bureaucrats take away that calling or take away their rights.  (Applause.)

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  And something I’ve said so much during the last two years, but I’ll say it again as we approach the end of the year.  You know, we’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore.  (Laughter.)  They don’t use the word “Christmas” because it’s not politically correct.  You go to department stores, and they’ll say, “Happy New Year” and they’ll say other things.  And it will be red, they’ll have it painted, but they don’t say it.  Well, guess what?  We’re saying “Merry Christmas” again.  (Applause.)  

Of course, every President since Truman has “made official” the National Day of Prayer through proclamation, as required by law. As for the Johnson Amendment, removing the IRS protection for churches against electioneering as President Trump has vowed, could, as the BJC’s Holly Hollman recently explained to CNN, “turn our houses of worship into ‘partisan outposts’.” While it sounds at first glance like a constraint on liberty, the Johnson Amendment actually serves to further religious autonomy and keeps our sanctuaries safe from politicization.

The new Justice Department guidelines he references, which lay out twenty (20) principles for interpreting federal religious liberty law, seem to oversimplify some complicated church-state issues in a way that may “exacerbate controversy” rather than resolving it.

More unclear are the “attacks on Judeo-Christian values” he claims to have ended. But I suppose we will know fairly soon whether Christmas is a widely acknowledged holiday across America. Stay tuned.