Jan. 16.  One reason so many conservatives are so eager to overlook President Trump’s many sins is that he so often takes executive actions that redeem their fondest and most justified hopes.

Trump, or rather his team, did it again on Thursday by proposing two administrative rule changes to stop government from discriminating against faith-based people and institutions. Both proposals are necessary and well reasoned.

The Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule that “removes regulatory burdens on religious organizations and ensures that religious and nonreligious organizations are treated equally in HHS-supported programs.” The Department of Education’s proposal is aimed at “ensuring the equal treatment and constitutional rights of religious organizations and faith-based institutions, as well as First Amendment freedoms owed to students on campus. As directed by Congress, the agency will also release updated guidance regarding constitutionally protected prayer in schools.”

Specifically, “a public institution of higher education [may] not deny to a faith-based student organization any of the rights, benefits, or privileges otherwise afforded to nonfaith-based student organizations.” This is tremendously important, because the Supreme Court has drawn numerous narrow distinctions regarding the interplay between public funding and the interests of faith-based groups. Without getting bogged down in the details, it’s worth noting that in Locke v. Davey and Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the court ruled against the faith-based groups at issue, but in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, the high court ruled in favor of the faith-based organization.

With such narrow distinctions being drawn, confused organizations and colleges look for administrative guidance as to how to proceed. Before Trinity Lutheran, the Obama administration had put its thumb on the scale against faith-based groups, but Trump’s team is now using the lessons from that case to properly rebalance executive guidance in a way that treats faith groups equally….

[The full column is at this link.]


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