During the 2016 presidential election campaign, conservative Christian voters watched closely to see what the nominees from the two major political parties would say and promise to do. Among the two major candidates, one candidate swayed enough evangelical votes to carry him on Election Day because of one monumental issue—religious liberty.
In the previous eight years, Americans had watched as talk of homosexual civil unions morphed into White House advocacy for gay marriage; “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was shuttled for a policy of open homosexuality in the military; federal support for transgender student rights was prioritized over privacy rights in public schools; an Obamacare Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate required businesses and parachurch ministries to cover abortion-causing drugs under the umbrella of “contraception”; and an emboldened Supreme Court attempted to redefine what marriage is.
It was apparent that judges, eager bureaucrats and willing elected officials had hastily trampled on religious freedom and conscience rights. Evangelicals who supported Donald Trump in 2016 weren’t voting for him based on any illusions of impeccable character. Rather, they believed the moral good of defeating the secular progressive agenda that is so hostile to people of faith left them with but one choice.
Following is a comparison of things said and done by the current and past administrations. Our goal is not to promote any one political party or partisan leader, but to note policies and stated positions that are of great importance to evangelical believers and ministries.
What They Did
On Right to Life
• Repealed the Mexico City policy, thus making U.S. taxpayer funds for abortions and abortion-related services available on international soil.
• Twice, in 2013 and again in 2015, opposed a pain-capable abortion ban (20-weeks gestation), calling claims that babies can feel pain at 20 weeks “scientifically disputed” and the bill contrary to women’s health. The bill never made it to the Oval Office.
• The Obama HHS department, following the Affordable Care Act’s passage, mandated that businesses and non-church religious organizations, including Christian hospitals and schools, be required to provide contraceptives and abortifacients to employees.
• On April 26, 2013, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, which is now mired in a fetal tissue scandal.
• Reinstated and expanded the Mexico City policy, preventing U.S. taxpayer funding for abortions and abortion-related services on international soil.
• “Strongly supports” the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The bill passed the House but failed in the Senate by a 51-46 margin. The White House says the bill would “promote a science-based approach to unborn life.”
• Keeping a campaign promise, the Trump administration last October rolled back the Obama-era contraceptive-abortifacient requirements for those with sincere religious objections, providing long-sought relief for many Christian organizations.
• Other accomplishments include a new HHS-stated mission to serve and protect Americans “at every stage of life, beginning at conception”; and cut off funds to the far-left U.N. Population Fund.
On Religious Freedom
• Implemented rules in 2015 binding medical workers’ participation in procedures related to so-called gender transition, including sex-change surgery. The amended rules were attached to existing rules against discrimination by health care providers.
• Following the Supreme Court’s 2014 gay marriage decision, the Department of Agriculture issued rules that effectively silenced opposition to gay marriage at sites where its employees served as inspectors.
• Announced a new HHS division aimed at enforcing constitutional guarantees and statutes—previously signed by Democratic and Republican presidents and still on the books—aimed at protecting medical workers’ conscience rights.
• The Trump Agriculture Department reversed the earlier rule following a lawsuit from a Michigan meat packing company censored by the Obama Agriculture Department for allowing pamphlets in its breakroom that advocated Biblical marriage.
On Judicial Appointments
• The Senate confirmed 329 Obama nominees to federal courts, including Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, and four judges on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
• In Trump’s first year, the Senate confirmed 24 judges, including Neil Gorsuch, a conservative constitutionalist, now on the Supreme Court. Some 60 Trump nominees await Senate confirmation votes.
• Early in his tenure, Obama voiced support for recognizing Jerusalem as capital, but like his two immediate predecessors, he delayed action via a loophole in a 1995 law, still on the books, that calls for Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Israel and for the U.S. Embassy to be moved there.
• On Dec. 6, 2017, Trump followed through on a promise made by former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to move the embassy to the Israeli capital of Jerusalem. The new embassy is scheduled to open this month.
What They Said
On Roe v. Wade
• “[Roe v. Wade] not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.”
• “… Roe v. Wade has resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world. For example, in the United States, it’s only one of seven countries to allow elective late-term abortions, along with China, North Korea and others. Right now, in a number of states, the laws allow a baby to be torn from his mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong; it has to change.”
On Religious Freedom
• “When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free. My administration has been guided by that idea. It’s why we stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and why we were pleased when the Court finally struck down a central provision of that discriminatory law. It’s why we ended ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
• “For too long the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs. … Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation. We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.”
On Christianity in America
• “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
• “Our rights are not given to us by man; our rights come from our Creator. No matter what, no earthly force can take those rights away. That is why the words ‘Praise be to God’ are etched atop the Washington Monument, and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people.”