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President Trump Takes Steps to Destroy the First Amendment

May 4, 2017

Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice issued the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s release of an executive order to grant sweeping exemptions from federal regulations to religious individuals and organizations, including lifting restrictions that prevent tax-exempt houses of worship from engaging in partisan political activity.

“This executive action by President Trump is part of a concerted effort to chip away at the Founders’ First Amendment that protects freedom of and freedom from religion. It goes against the very notion of the First Amendment, which was meant to protect people of all faiths and of no faith by ensuring a healthy separation of church and state.

Make no mistake: these efforts have nothing to do with protecting aggrieved religious individuals or groups that feel they are being treated unfairly. It has nothing to do with ‘leveling the playing field’ to ensure religious institutions are not ‘discriminated against.’ It has everything to do with giving a carte blanche to sectarian interest groups that delivered votes for President Trump and putting extreme religious beliefs above all others.

The ‘religious freedom’ pretext President Trump used to justify his executive action is simply a smoke screen to allow big businesses run by religious special interests to discriminate, deny women basic healthcare provisions like birth control and openly impose their religious and political views on others.  These broad provisions would allow faith based businesses to have their cake and eat it too—to maintain their tax benefits, while denying other individuals’ basic liberties. In particular, this action could be disastrous for the hundreds of thousands of employees at Catholic nonprofit organizations, schools, colleges and universities and hospitals. The loss of benefits could be tremendous for employees and students, Catholic or non-Catholic alike.

The order leaves the door wide open for houses of worship to create slush funds for politicians, transform clergy into mouthpieces for political candidates and threaten the integrity of both houses of worship and the democratic process. Catholics for Choice joins the voices of a diverse cross-section of faith-based and secular communities in upholding the Johnson Amendment, which serves as a shield preventing political campaigns from entering into the pulpit.

It is rather ironic that the President who claimed he would ‘drain the swamp’ has instead installed a patronage system to reward religious big business at the expense of our Constitution, real religious liberty and our poorest communities.”