What will happen when Trump and Pope Francis finally meet?


Catholic Herald, 26 January 2017

The US president is likely to get an earful, but on one topic he might receive a word of thanks

The massive Women’s March against Donald Trump was billed as being open to all, but they would not have made room on the podium for the Little Sisters of the Poor as they did for Planned Parenthood. And I doubt the Little Sisters would have wanted to march – whatever they think of Donald Trump – against an administration that will end their persecution at the hands of the healthcare bureaucracy.

Donald Trump is personally irreligious, vulgar, mean-spirited and fond of the smack of firm government – against illegal Mexican aliens, Muslim refugees and outsourcing corporate executives – but he might save religious liberty in the United States for another decade or more. While most political attention is focused on whether President Trump will undo President Obama’s healthcare programme, his moves on religious liberty bear close watching too.

A priority of the Obama administration was to make religious liberty, the free exercise of which is secured by the first amendment in the American Bill of Rights, a secondary liberty. In the early days of the administration, “religious liberty” or “freedom of religion” was dropped in Obama’s foreign policy in favour of “freedom of worship”, a narrower concept which excludes the right of religious citizens to participate in civil life precisely as religious believers, in concert with their co-religionists. At the end of his administration, Obama’s state department had to be cajoled and threatened into declaring the obvious, that a genocide was underway against Christians by ISIS.

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