Trump's uphill battle to save religious protections
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We often overlook people who do thankless work — those who day after day dutifully carry out tasks that most of us would rather not think about, let alone do ourselves. Countless people of faith, for example, pour their lives out for others, and they include foster parents who love other people’s children as their own and other generous individuals who have committed themselves to caring for the poor and downtrodden.

Historically, when we’ve failed to recognize the people who do this indispensable work, our inaction reflected little more than the regrettable habit of neglecting to express our gratitude. But recently, many situations have arisen in which unspoken thankfulness has turned to unabashed hostility. We see this most prominently in some government officials’ efforts to block people of faith from continuing to serve others.

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One well-known example on the federal level is President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNRATV host says Obama owes Parkland students an apology over shooting Paltry wage gains, rising deficits two key tax reform concerns Throwing some cold water on all of the Korean summit optimism MORE’s mandate that nonprofit religious organizations must violate their faith by providing abortion-inducing drugs in their health-insurance plans. For the many faith-based groups unwilling to compromise their pro-life convictions, this order threatened to shut them down.

 

Fortunately, that obstruction is nearly gone. The Supreme Court went part way toward eliminating it in May 2016, when in its Zubik decision the court instructed the feds to try to “arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates [the groups’] religious exercise.”

The organizations in need of that religious accommodation included the Little Sisters of the Poor. As their website describes, the Little Sisters “serve the elderly poor.” Their mission “is to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.” Why on earth would someone want to force groups like this to stop the incredible work they do?

For nearly a year following the Zubik decision, the feds made little to no progress toward accommodating the Little Sisters. But finally, in early May, President Trump signed an executive order on religious freedom that not only established an executive-branch policy of “vigorously enforc[ing] Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom,” but also instructed his department heads to “consider issuing amended regulations . . . to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.”

Just a few days ago, an alleged draft of an amended regulation was leaked to the press. If officially adopted, it would ensure that groups like the Little Sisters do not have to choose between paying crippling fines and violating their faith. It would ensure that they remain free to continue caring for elderly people who cannot provide for themselves.

While that would be a victory for religious freedom, elsewhere in the country other government officials persist in banning people of faith from caring for the needy and neglected. One of the latest trends is an effort to prevent conservative Christians, Jews, and Muslims from serving as foster parents or otherwise working with foster children.

The state of Illinois released procedures last month stating that it “will not tolerate exposing LGBTQ children and youth to staff/service providers who are not supportive of children and youths’ right to self-determination of sexual/gender identity.”

In other words, people of faith who believe that maleness and femaleness are innate biological realities and who are unable to treat a girl as a boy are seemingly disqualified from serving foster kids. This is true even if those religious individuals are eager to love children confused about their gender identity by helping them obtain counseling to process and hopefully resolve that confusion.

Some LGBT advocacy organizations and their government allies have spearheaded these efforts to exclude from the foster-care field people who hold particular religious beliefs. Ironically, a group that was formerly forbidden from fostering children in many parts of the country is now trying to impose that same fate on adherents of the Abrahamic faiths. The excluded, it seems, has now become the excluder.

To make matters worse, many states are experiencing a foster-kid crisis. They have far too many children that need homes and far too few families willing to provide one. Christians, in particular, are prime candidates to fill the void. “Pure and undefiled” religion, the Scriptures implore Christ’s followers, is “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).

By excluding Christians from the foster-care field, states like Illinois are hamstringing their ability to address the crises that they face. The best way for states to really help children—to get more of them out of institutional settings and into homes — is to eliminate (not create) roadblocks to participation by people of faith.

Perhaps the cure for society’s historical failure to pay homage to these selfless servants and for the current antagonism toward them lies in the same place — by imagining what life would be like without their service. In that hypothetical world, far more children would be without a home, and far more in need would go uncared for. Even though many on the left despise religious freedom, at least some of them should find this difficult to swallow.

Jim Campbell is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which defends religious freedom in the U.S. and worldwide.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.