The religious liberty guaranteed by the Constitution is not a favor from the government, but a natural right bestowed by God. Our Constitution and our laws that protect religious freedom merely recognize the right that all people have by virtue of their humanity. As Thomas Jefferson wisely questioned: “can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?”
It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom. The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government. For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans’ first freedom. Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government. The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections.
Look, I think it’s very hard to argue that a pastor or another faith leader shouldn’t be able to speak out about morality in the public square. I think that it would be almost like Martin Luther King, Jr. shouldn’t have been allowed to speak out against George Wallace. I don’t think anybody in this room would argue that that would be an appropriate thing to do, and that is what the Johnson Amendment currently does. And we see this as a hurdle to freedom of speech, and certainly something that should be protected.