Since taking office, President Donald Trump has established himself as a staunch defender of religious liberty, not just at home, but all around the world. And on Tuesday, he took another step in that direction.
According to the New York Post, Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that promotes international religious freedom as something that is “imperative” to national security and a top “priority” of American foreign policy.
The president signed the order at the White House following a visit with the first lady to the national shrine honoring Saint Pope John Paul II in Washington, D.C.
Prioritizing religious freedom
According to an unnamed senior administration official who spoke with the Post, this order is yet another example of President Trump using the enormous weight of the U.S. government to advocate on behalf of religious minorities — of all faiths — worldwide.
“The president was clear when he called upon ‘the nations of the world to end religious persecution,'” the official told the Post. “This executive order fully integrates the president’s vision — a vigorous defense of International Religious Freedom rights for all — into key aspects of United States foreign policy.”
The executive order signed on Tuesday declared: “[O]ur Founders understood religious freedom not as a creation of the state, but as a gift of God to every person and a right that is fundamental for the flourishing of our society.”
In light of that, and in consultation with various institutions of civil society and religious communities and organizations around the globe, the president instructed the Secretary of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to “develop a plan to prioritize international religious freedom in the planning and implementation of United States foreign policy and in the foreign assistance programs of the Department of State and USAID.”
State Department to take action
According to the order, the State Department will designate at least $50 million annually for programs intended to advance religious liberty, “anticipate, prevent, and respond” to attacks against religious minorities, hold such religiously-motivated attackers accountable, protect at-risk houses of worship and public spaces of faith, protect cultural and religious heritage, and ensure equal rights and protection under the law for religious minorities.
Along those lines, the State Department will also integrate the priority of defending religious freedom into all of its diplomacy and will raise the issue when necessary in dealings with nations known to tolerate or engage in the persecution of religious minorities. Furthermore, all foreign service employees will be required to undergo religious freedom training at least once every three years.
Adding teeth to the order is the fact that the president authorized the secretary of State to make use of certain economic tools, where appropriate, such as sanctions or the withholding of aid or travel visas, to nations of particular concern and those that have violated the religious liberty of minorities.
The order was praised by the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Tony Perkins.
“We applaud President Trump for continuing to prioritize international religious freedom as a national security imperative and a foreign policy priority,” he said in a statement. “This Executive Order encourages swift action by the U.S. government to hold accountable foreign governments that commit severe violations and substantially increases U.S. economic assistance to support programs that advance religious freedom around the world.”