A Christian activist group’s plea for President Donald Trump to sign a religious freedom executive order that would “protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans” has attracted more than 105,000 signatures over the past week.
The American Family Association petition, which consists of an open letter to Trump, thanks the president for, thus far, keeping his promises to uphold religious liberty. But the text also states that, while Trump’s pledge to repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment that bans non-profits, including churches, from endorsing political candidates, is encouraging, more must be done.
“Thank you for being diligent in your efforts to keep your campaign promise to protect religious liberty — a fundamental right that originates from God, not the government,” the text reads. “Rather, it is the role of government to protect and preserve these rights.”
The petition then goes on to cite what the American Family Association dubbed instances of government bullying against Christian business owners — individuals who have been punished for refusing to bake wedding cakes or make products that they felt impeded their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Among other state-level cases across the U.S., the text cited Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, who were fined $135,000 by their state after declining to make a cake for a lesbian couple, and Kentucky-based printer Blaine Adamson, who was initially punished for refusing to make gay pride-themed T-shirts.
“Although these are state-level issues, they are indicative of the type of unconstitutional actions the radical left vigorously seeks to apply at the federal level,” text of the petition continues. “For this reason, we are seeking relief by changes in policy and laws to protect and preserve the religious liberty of not just religious institutions but also of individual Christians and Christian business owners.”
In a video accompanying the text, American Family Association president Tim Wildmon pledged to physically take the petition to the White House in an effort to meet with officials and convince Trump to push forward on protecting religious liberty.
As of Tuesday morning, the petition had attracted 105,000 signatures.
But while some seek protections for Christian business owners who hold sincerely held beliefs on issues like gay marriage, others argue that everyone must be respected and treated fairly under the law. So, even if a baker or wedding photographer personally disagrees with gay marriage, these individuals believe they should still be mandated to offer their services for a same-sex wedding.
In the end, it’s essentially a battle over the religious freedom protections enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and the nondiscrimination sentiments embraced in the 14th Amendment. You can read a full explainer of the issue over at Deseret News.
Speculation has run rampant in recent days about Trump’s plans on the religious freedom front after a draft executive order addressing this very issue leaked to media earlier this month.
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