President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order on religious freedom, which has been met with enthusiasm in some circles and skepticism in others. Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, described it as “lacking in the kind of teeth that we expected.” The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl J. Anderson, commented: “We applaud President Trump’s executive order on religious liberty. While there is still work to be done to restore the reverence for religious freedom enshrined in the first amendment, this order marks an important step in restoring those constitutional principles guaranteed to every American.”
The president’s executive order is a step in the right direction but is still remarkably innocuous. It repeals many of the mandates of “Obamacare” and seeks to set up some protection against the providing of services that would go against the conscience of the individual, for instance, contraception.
It remains unclear on the term “discrimination.” A question to ask would be how far does it protect faith-oriented people in business from having to provide services such as catering for a same-sex couple.
A major issue remains in the sense that this act is only an executive order. It is the act of one person, the current president, and could be repealed immediately if the president changes his mind and or is voted out of office.
As for the non-enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, it is not the place of the Church to become a political forum. The Church will continue to speak about issues rather than candidates. The executive order, however, does give breathing room to the Church so that it does not feel threatened every time it enters the public forum.
We commend the Trump administration for assuring that organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor do not have to participate in being complicit in immoral acts. Yet, something stronger is needed than an executive order. We need a complete evangelization of the culture, something that can only come from the credible witness of committed Catholics in the public square.
If we as Catholics can get it together, agreeing on basic principles, based on Divine Revelation, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as interpreted by the Magisterium, understood in agreement with the natural law, then our credible witness and common faith will change the world better than any executive order.