Trump to highlight updated guidance on prayer in public schools

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants MORE will hold an Oval Office event on Thursday to celebrate the release of updated guidance on religious prayer in public elementary and secondary schools.

White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan told reporters Thursday morning that the guidance, which hasn’t been updated since 2003, “will remind school districts of the rights of students, parents and teachers, and will empower students in others to confidently know and exercise their rights.”

“President Trump is committed to making sure that people of faith, particularly children, are not subjected to illegal punishment or pressure for executing their constitutionally protected right,” Grogan added.

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Trump is scheduled to announce the updated guidance in the Oval Office at 2 p.m. on Thursday, which is National Religious Freedom Day.

The Supreme Court has held that state-organized prayer in public schools violates the First Amendment, but students are allowed to pray alone or in groups. The updated guidance is meant to underscore that right.

The updated guidance is one of three actions the Trump administration is taking on Thursday that Grogan described as a continued effort by the president to “defend the constitutionally protected right to the free exercise of religions.”

Among the actions touted by the administration, nine federal agencies — including the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services and Education — are releasing proposed rules that will remove what Trump administration officials describe as “discriminatory regulatory burdens” that the Obama administration placed on religious organizations that receive federal funding.

In particular, the proposed rules remove the alternative provider requirement established by a 2010 executive order signed by then-President Obama. The executive order required faith-based organizations running social service programs to refer a beneficiary to an alternative provider if he or she objects to the religious character of the organization.

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The Office of Management and Budget is also releasing a memo that officials said would require federal agencies to ensure that the grant-making processes of state recipients of federal funds comply with the First Amendment, officials said.

The Department of Education will issue the updated guidance on prayer. A senior administration official also said the department is proposing regulations related to the protection of religious student groups in public higher education institutions, including how students report discrimination.

The moves come as the president seeks to galvanize his support among evangelical Christians after a leading magazine, Christianity Today, called for his impeachment and removal from office. Trump enjoys strong support among evangelicals, and his prominent supporters have rallied behind him in the wake of the critical editorial.

Trump kicked off 2020 by holding an event to rally evangelical supporters in Florida, positioning himself as a champion of religious voters while eviscerating his Democratic competitors.

“Together, we’re not only are we defending our Constitutional rights, we’re also defending religion itself, which is under siege,” Trump said at the Jan. 3 rally. “Every Democrat candidate running for president is trying to punish religious believers and silence our churches and our pastors.”