Religious Freedom: Looking Forward, Looking Back

May 6, 2021

With every new day in Biden's America comes more evidence of just how much damage the administration is doing to religious freedom. As FRC's Pray Vote Stand broadcast made clear last night, even though Biden has already and will likely continue to unravel the gains that President Trump made for Americans of all faiths, the legacy that President Trump established to bolster the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans will continue to endure and resonate.

As the former White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus had a front row seat to the inner workings of the Trump administration, and as he observed during the broadcast, President Trump made bold moves for faith, family, and freedom without hesitation.

"He believed in these initiatives," Priebus said. "Even on the very first day, when we put together the Mexico City Policy, he didn't bat an eye, and he agreed that we shouldn't be spending taxpayer dollars in foreign countries with NGOs that are performing abortions." The speed with which President Trump committed to furthering religious freedom even caught Priebus a little off guard. "I was a little surprised," he said. "It didn't take me long to realize that President Trump was going to actually follow through with all of these things that he said ... he cared about the views and opinions of faith leaders across the country ... He didn't really try to calculate the politics as much as I think other political leaders do."

As to the way forward under the current administration, Priebus was frank: "This is life or death. It is very scary what's happening, and I think we are coming to a moral crisis in America, and I think it's important for people of faith to not be discouraged but to be even more encouraged to be involved in the political process. I would encourage pastors to not turn your church into vanilla ice cream cotton candy on Sunday morning and be afraid to tell people what matters as a person of faith and why it's important to be salt and light in the world, not just in church on Sunday [and] on basic religious beliefs but to be informed and to be salt and light in the political world as well."

Jennie Lichter served as the Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and gave further perspective to the PVS audience on the legacy of Trump's time in office.

"[Trump's] words weren't just words, they translated into action," Lichter said. "This was a comprehensive, whole of government, dedicated, proactive, strategic effort to protect and raise up our first freedom that I don't think has ever been seen before. But I hope we see [it] again, because I think President Trump set the bar high for future presidents, but I think he also showed what can be done when you build a team and set a tone that this is an absolute priority for the president."

She reflected further on President Trump's motivations for making religious freedom a priority. "It was clear from the beginning that it was genuine, that he absolutely meant it and those were his marching orders to his team -- this is a priority for us to work hard on it," Lichter observed. "But he reflected once or twice in sort of smaller settings, about different times that religion had touched him personally. He very much appreciated being prayed over ... He welcomed prayers from the American people, from the pastors that he worked with and from his staff."

What should Christians be doing now as the new administration attempts to dismantle all of this good work? "Prayer is the number one thing," Lichter said. "Pray for our country. Pray for this president, pray for the faith community and that we can all continue to have strength and to keep our eyes on our primary mission of evangelizing the world, come what may in the political realm."

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, closed the broadcast by also pleading for a national renewal of prayer to God for a country in desperate need of it. "We need God more than ever before and we need each other more than ever before ... This is a time when churches need to be calling out to the Lord like never before, because ... this is amazing what we're seeing occur. And only God can turn the tide. And the church must wake up to this moment, answer this moment, and lead the way in calling out to God on behalf of our nation."

He went on to emphasize the central role that the church must take in this great calling: "This is the time the church needs to stand with courage, along with wisdom, giving the truth of God and giving the love of God, but not apologizing or backing up or running away from God's ultimate calling to us, which is to extend the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world, because in reality, only Jesus can change all of these matters."

Before closing the broadcast in prayer, Floyd gave believers a clear path forward: "I think the church now must deeply do two things. Above all, they need to pray more than they ever have before, and they need to focus on extending the gospel to every person in their town. The time is urgent. The time is now whether they live in a town or rural setting, or they live in a city. They need to be committed to reach their city, to touch America with the gospel and to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.