President Donald Trump addressed the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom on Monday, becoming the first U.S. president to host a United Nations meeting on religious liberty. The heads of state of more than 130 nations and UN Secretary-General António Guterres attended. Here are five key themes of his address:
1. Rights are unalienable, because they come from God. “The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government; they come from God. This immortal truth is proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions.”
2. Only 20 percent of the planet enjoys religious liberty. “Approximately 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted, or even banned.” Pew Research actually placed the percentage of the global population living in nations with government restrictions or social hostility toward religions slightly higher, 83 percent, in 2016.
3. People of all faith traditions face death for their faith. “In recent times, the world has also witnessed devastating acts of violence in sacred places of worship. In 2016, an 85-year-old Catholic priest was viciously killed while celebrating Mass in Normandy, France. In the past year, the United States endured horrifying anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish Americans at synagogues in Pennsylvania and California. In March, Muslims praying with their families were sadistically murdered in New Zealand. On Easter Sunday this year, terrorists bombed Christian churches in Sri Lanka, killing hundreds of faithful worshipers.” Many of these were perpetrated by believers in Racial Collectivist Terrorism.
4. $25 million initiative to protect religious relics and holy places. “Today, the Trump administration will dedicate an additional $25 million to protect religious freedom and religious sites and relics.” This, too, could cover a broad portion of the globe. At least 10 acts of church desecration or vandalism took place in France during the first two-and-a-half weeks of February.
5. Protecting the free expression of religion at work. President Trump also launched “a very critical initiative” with help “from the business community,” he announced. “The United States is forming a coalition of U.S. businesses for the protection of religious freedom. This is the first time this has been done. This initiative will encourage the private sector to protect people of all faiths in the workplace.” People of faith have found it difficult to participate in the economy – from the Swedish midwife who refused to participate in abortion, to U.S. florists, bakers, and photographers who have been sued over their traditional Christian beliefs – thanks to secular intolerance. “Too often, people in positions of power preach diversity while silencing, shunning, or censoring the faithful,” President Trump said. “True tolerance means respecting the right of all people to express their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Trump’s remarks won plaudits from religious liberty watchdog organizations. “President Trump has an outstanding record defending religious liberty thus far,” said Mike Berry of the First Liberty Institute.
“The president’s speech is an important and historic moment precisely because religious freedom is too often ignored or downplayed at the UN,” said Kelsey Zorzi, International Director of Global Religious Freedom at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“The president delivered a historic speech that goes beyond talking about international religious freedom to taking tangible steps,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “Not only is religious freedom a fundamental human right, as recognized by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but there is a growing body of research that shows that nations that uphold religious freedom have greater social and economic security – which indirectly makes all nations more secure.”
(Photo credit: U.S. Department of State. This photo has been cropped. Public domain.)