November 07, 2017
Faith, freedom, and... farms! Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that's what Middle America can celebrate now that the agency has finished the job that Donald Trump started with his executive order on religious liberty. And for families like Michigan's Vander Boons, not a minute too soon. The Christian owners of a local meat packing company had been in the crosshairs of liberal USDA inspectors since 2015, when the government workers spied a pamphlet on natural marriage in the family business breakroom.
In one of the more astounding cases of religious intolerance, inspectors grabbed up the materials, closed the door to Don's office, and threatened to shut him down if the literature ever resurfaced. The stunned owner of the West Michigan Beef company listened as the government workers told him they had the right to take "immediate and appropriate corrective action" when dealing with anything they considered "harassment." Vander Boon's position on marriage, he was told, qualified. That weighed heavily on the dad of three's mind, especially since the West Michigan Beef Company employed 45 people whose families also relied on them. To keep his doors open, Don made the difficult decision to pull the information on natural marriage.
Two years and one president later, Don and Ellen were still at risk. Donald Trump had issued his executive order on religious liberty, which helped. Even Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue weighed in, defending people like the Vander Boons. But last month, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions finally gave teeth to the president's order, the family knew its struggle would soon be over. "Soon" came in the form of an official statement from the Agriculture Department yesterday. To the cheers of Christians, who lived under the anti-faith cloud of Obama for eight years, officials made it clear:
"Opinions about same-sex marriage, gender identity, and sexual morality are all matters of public importance... USDA respects the First Amendment rights of USDA personnel, as well as non-USDA personnel working at facilities inspected by USDA, to share their varying viewpoints on these topics, whether through oral discussion, the display or distribution of literature, or other means."
Obviously, policing the beliefs of small businesses isn't the job of the USDA -- or any government agency. But unfortunately, after two terms of Obama, Washington has been trained on religion like a disease that needs to be eradicated. That's all changing, thanks to the coordinated efforts of the White House and government agencies.
Every American, regardless of their beliefs, should agree: This kind of runaway government censorship is exactly what the administration should try to stop. So, if anyone wonders why we need an executive order protecting religious liberty, wonder no more! Hopefully, the USDA will be the first in a long line of government agencies taking steps to protect America's faithful.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.