News Release

The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right


Politico reports: “White House aims for Thursday signing of religious liberty executive order.” The House Subcommittee on Government Operations is scheduled to have a hearing on the Johnson Amendment on Thursday, “Examining a Church’s Right to Free Speech.”

FREDERICK CLARKSON, frederick.clarkson at, @FredClarkson
Clarkson is senior fellow at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, Massachusetts. He is the author of the 2016 report, “When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right.”

Clarkson said today: “When most Christian Right leaders went all in for Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, he promised to deliver on religious liberty. Today, he is making a big show of doing just that. Religious liberty has been a code word for right-wing Christians seeking to roll back civil rights gains for women, LGBTQ people and people of other faiths by seeking religious exemptions from the law.

“Trump is issuing his executive order on religious liberty on the federally designated National Day of Prayer, which has been largely operated by fundamentalist Christians.”Both Trump’s executive order and the National Day of Prayer are abuses of religious freedom — what we have long called The First Freedom, because it precedes freedom of speech and the press in the First Amendment. Religious freedom is a progressive value that is so central to our society that it must not be devalued by partisan and sectarian operatives.

“Trump has, far more than his predecessors, appointed Christian Right pols and leaders to cabinet and significant sub-cabinet posts. These include Betsy DeVos at Education, Ben Carson at HUD, Rick Perry at Energy, Mike Pompeo at CIA and Tom Price at HHS. This past week, Trump also appointed antiabortion leader Charmaine Yoest (the former president of Americans United for Life) as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs of HHS; and anti-contraception activist Teresa Manning as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs.”