Few people realize how much power the federal government has when it comes to defining religious freedom in this country – especially in practical things. While the president sets the tone and example for the government to follow, there are dozens of ways that a faith-based organization can run into anti-religious hostility.

Take the matter of federal contracting. Some people might wonder why a faith-based organization would have any interest in taking a contract from the federal government. What would a religious organization have to do with government work?

But religious groups can handle many services better and more efficiently than a secular organization. Think, for example, of charities that handle the needs of the homeless, the poor, those reentering life after time in prison – not to mention faith-based hospitals and medical facilities. Many of these organizations existed before the federal government got involved in providing such services. 

And then there are the services that are hard to imagine being handled by anything other than a religious organizations – like training chaplains. It’s not only practical, but also necessary to give religious groups the same access to federal contracts as to secular groups – and without issuing any conditions that would undermine their principles in order to take the contract.

This was the subject of a recent discussion CAAP took part in with representatives of the Department of Labor. President George W. Bush noticed religious groups were being treated unfairly and issued directives to federal agencies to allow those groups access to federal contracts. The Obama administration interpreted those directives very narrowly, shutting religious groups out once again and ushering in an era of hostility between government and faith-based organizations. 

President Trump’s administration has worked to expand that interpretation and the president has issued new directives guaranteeing the fair treatment of faith-based organizations in federal contracts. For now, no religious organization needs to worry about abandoning their principles in order to be part of a government project.

Unfortunately, experience has shown that those guarantees can be flipped on their head by a president who does not respect religious freedom – or even by a bureaucrat who is hostile to faith-based organizations and wants to silence and marginalize religious groups.

It wouldn’t take much to restart the attacks on freedom of conscience.

This isn’t just about government contacts. It’s about the government’s entire outlook and attitude to people of faith. Over the past decade, we’ve seen federal agencies target organizations deemed problematic to the sitting administration. We’ve seen legislative attempts to silence religious organizations, forbid certain teachings, and force compliance with the LGBTQ agenda.

It’s only a matter of time before we see the first real government attempt to classify the Bible as “hate speech.” (If you doubt me, consider the fact that this is already happening in Europe, where a Finnish politician is facing prison for quoting scripture.) 

We must prepare to vigorously defend religious liberty in the coming year. Won’t you help join the fight?

We know what it’s like to be targeted for our faith and our beliefs, and we cannot allow faith-based groups to be pushed out of the public square. Please stand with us as we prepare to defend Biblical values in the coming year.