There was a time, not too long ago, when Americans wondered if the National Day of Prayer could even survive an administration as hostile to faith as Obama’s. But, every May for eight years, even the most liberal president in history — whether out of obligation or sincere belief — couldn’t escape what America is and has always been: one nation, under God.
Now, a year and a half into an administration that runs to our Christian heritage — not away from it — today is a celebration. Under President Trump, the National Day of Prayer isn’t a just 24-hour cease fire in the government’s war on faith — but the acknowledgement of a year-round culture change, where religion and freedom matter. In sharp contrast to the previous administration, President Trump is committed to protecting and promoting religious freedom 365 days year. As he said today, “We must cherish our spiritual foundation” and the actions of this administration back it up.
At today’s Rose Garden ceremony, I was one of the dozens of faith leaders on hand to witness the latest proof of this president’s sincerity: the kick-off of the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative. By executive order, President Trump took the last two administration’s attempts at faith-based outreach and turned it into a powerful and expanded agent of inclusive change. The new office, which will report directly to the White House, won’t be a symbolic gesture or a pretext for pet projects, but a commitment to ensure the ability of individuals of faith to be at home in every U.S. agency.
Unlike past offices, Trump’s emphasis is giving faith groups a stronger voice on areas like poverty, religious liberty, education, family, prisoner reform, mental health, and human trafficking. This White House wants religious groups and organizations to have “strong advocates” across the federal government — which is a radical departure from the presidents of the past. Specifically, the order states:
Faith-based and community organizations have tremendous ability to serve individuals, families, and communities through means that are different from those of government and with capacity that often exceeds that of government. These organizations lift people up, keep families strong, and solve problems at the local level. The executive branch wants faith-based and community organizations, to the fullest opportunity permitted by law, to compete on a level playing field for grants, contracts, programs, and other Federal funding opportunities. The efforts of faith-based and community organizations are essential to revitalizing communities, and the Federal Government welcomes opportunities to partner with such organizations through innovative, measurable, and outcome-driven initiatives.