David Davenport: Religious Liberty Questions Are in the Courts and Agencies

Some churches took heart when President Trump said he would work to do away with the Johnson Amendment, part of the tax code that prohibits churches from endorsing political candidates.

But the really difficult and important issues of religious liberty lie elsewhere in the courts and federal agencies. And the question is what happens when civil rights protections based on the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment clash with religious rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recently found that exemptions for religious groups infringe on civil rights. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Supreme Court in the gay marriage decision, said religious groups could teach their traditional values, but he ignored the stronger language of the First Amendment allowing them to actually practice it.

The most important steps President Trump can take to protect religious liberty are to appoint Supreme Court justices such as Neil Gorsuch and leaders of federal agencies who respect the First Freedom—religious freedom.