WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump signed new guidelines Thursday afternoon to protect prayer in public schools.
“This afternoon we’re proudly announcing historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools… There’s nothing more important than that, I would say,” President Donald Trump said Thursday alongside administration officials, religious representatives, students and teacher advocates.
In signing the executive action, he also rolled back restrictions on religious groups who receive federal funding. He said treating religious groups differently from non-religious groups is a form of discrimination.
“Prayer in public school has always been an important part of our nation’s history,” according to Chase Windebank, who was there at the time of the signing.
Before Windebank graduated from his Colorado Springs High School, he took his own school to court.
“We wound up getting banned by the administrators for praying during free time,” he said.
Today, Windebank and other students who say they experienced religious persecution were invited to the White House as the president rolled out new guidelines to protect prayer in school.
In addition to the president, ten federal agencies are expected to release new guidelines that say they will prevent discrimination against groups with religious affiliations.
Joe Grogen, President Trump’s domestic policy council director, said religious groups shouldn’t be required to find secular alternatives for people who come to them for help but are uncomfortable with their religious ideals.
“You need to make sure states, when they distribute federal dollars, they’re not discriminating against religious institutions,” Grogen said. “Some people need to get over the fact that they’re offended by people of faith.”
But Jack Moline, the president of Interfaith Alliance, said religious groups shouldn’t impose their beliefs on people who come to them for non-religious services, like adoptions or healthcare.
“What’s being advocated by this administration is relaxing of the requirements for faith based organizations,” Moline said. “Which is a violation of the establishment clause, the very first freedom articulated in the First Amendment.”
As an executive action, the new guidelines are not subject to Congressional approval.