USCCB Chairmen Ask President Trump to Fulfill His Promise to Protect Religious Liberty

February 16, 2017 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—In early February, several mediaoutlets reported that President Donald J. Trump is considering issuing anexecutive order establishing a government-wide initiative to respect religiousfreedom. A copy of a draft executive order was published by multiple newsoutlets. The President has not yet signed the executive order on religiousfreedom.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairmanof the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput,OFM Cap., of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage,Family Life and Youth, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of theUSCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and  Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairmanof the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, jointlyissued the following statement urging support for the draft executive order:

The right of all human beings to religiousfreedom, based on the inherent dignity of every person, has long been supportedby the Catholic Bishops of the United States. Over the last several years, to our great dismay, the federal governmenthas eroded this fundamental right, our first and most cherished freedom. The HHS mandate, for example, poses anincredibly heavy burden for the Little Sisters of the Poor and others due toconscientious objections to facilitating coverage of sterilization andcontraception, including drugs and devices that may cause abortions. The Little Sisters—and so many others—stilldo not have adequate relief and still face possible fines in the tens ofmillions of dollars if they do not comply with the HHS mandate.

President Trump has pledged that his"administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religiousliberty in our land." We urge thefulfillment of this promise, including an end to regulations and other mandatesby the federal government that force people of faith to make impossiblechoices. We express our fervent hope that with new leadership in the ExecutiveBranch, basic protections for religious practice may be restored and evenstrengthened.

As President Trump himself has affirmed,religious freedom is under severe threat, including in our own country, eventhough it is the first of our Constitutional freedoms. An immediate remedy to these threats isneeded, for without it, our freedom to serve—as exemplified by the LittleSisters and others who serve the poor—will remain in jeopardy, and needlessconflict between the faith community and the federal government will continue.

It is indeed encouraging to hear that thePresident may be considering an Executive Order to implement strong protectionsfor religious freedom across the federal government, in many of the areas whereit has been eroded by the preceding Administration, such as health coverage,adoption, accreditation, tax exemption, and government grants andcontracts. We ourselves, as well asthose we shepherd and serve, would be most grateful if the President would takethis positive step toward allowing all Americans to be able to practice theirfaith without severe penalties from the federal government.

As Christians, our goal is to live andserve others as the Gospel asks. President Trump can ensure that we are not forced from the publicsquare. Restoring the federalgovernment's proper relationship with the First Amendment and other lawsprotecting conscience and religious freedom will enable us to continue ourservice to the most vulnerable of Americans.

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Keywords: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan,Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop William E. Lori, Bishop Frank J.Dewane, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Committee on Pro-LifeActivities, Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Ad HocCommittee for Religious Liberty, Committee on Domestic Justice and HumanDevelopment, draft executive order, religious freedom, religious liberty.

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MEDIA CONTACT:NormaMontenegro FlynnO: 202-541-3200