President Trump issued updated rules Thursday to ensure that public school students are allowed to engage in constitutionally protected prayer, calling his action “the Right to Pray.”
“Government must never stand between the people and God,” the president said during an Oval Office meeting with students of faith from across the country.
president Trump warned that there is a “growing totalitarian” bent on the Left against religion. He said blocking prayer in schools “is totally unacceptable.”
Taking the action on National Religious Freedom Day, president Trump announced updates to federal guidance on school prayer, which is required by federal law every two years but hasn’t been done since 2003.
The guidance states that school officials “may not lead their classes in prayer, devotional readings from the Bible, or other religious activities,and nor may school officials use their authority to attempt to persuade or compel students to participate in prayer or other religious activities.”Nine agencies are also set to release proposed rules to ensure religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally by the federal government.
The administration’s latest efforts were swiftly criticized Thursday by some nonprofit groups and including the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists.
The Rev. Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump’s informal evangelical advisory board, contended that the “White House isn’t saying whether one should pray or to whom or what they should pray to” with the announced changes but that “they are simply making it clear that in the United States students have First Amendment rights also, and our ‘separation of church and state’ wasn’t intended to suppress a vibrant religious life in America but to facilitate it.”
“Well, it is a cultural war. And you have two sides … you have a side that believes so strongly in prayer and then being restricted and it’s getting worse and worse and I think we’ve made a big impact,” Trump said on Thursday. “And we are loosening up a lot … I want to loosen it up totally.”