A Christian activist group's petition for President Trump to sign a controversial religious freedom executive order has received 107,000 signatures in a week. The plea joins calls from several Christian leaders urging action from the president.
The petition from the American Family Association takes the form of an open letter to Trump, thanking him for his work so far, but also calling for further action in support of religious freedom.
'Thank you for being diligent in your efforts to keep your campaign promise to protect religious liberty – a fundamental right that originates from God, not the government,' the letter says. 'Rather, it is the role of government to protect and preserve these rights.'
The letter then gives examples of 'how the government has bullied people for exercising their Judeo-Christian values'. These include those fined for not participating in gay wedding ceremonies, or refusing to produce or sell products that endorse gay marriage.
The letter calls such cases 'indicative of the type of unconstitutional actions the radical left vigorously seeks to apply at the federal level. For this reason, we are seeking relief by changes in policy and laws to protect and preserve the religious liberty of not just religious institutions but also of individual Christians and Christian business owners.'
It thanks Trump for his promise to repeal the Johnson amendment but calls for further action, the signing of the leaked executive order on religious freedom.
In a video attached to the petition, American Family Association president Tim Wildmon says: 'Christian businesses are being shut down because they won't participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies. This just shouldn't happen in America...President Trump can do something about it with this religious freedom executive order.'
The video message implores Trump to 'keep your campaign promises to the Christian community.'
The order, leaked to The Nation in January, is titled 'Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom'. If enacted, the order would create wholesale exemptions for people and organisations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and transgender identity, and it seeks to curtail women's access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.
Critics said it legalised discrimination, calling it 'unconstitutional' and 'un-American'.
Yesterday the Catholic Herald reported increased concerns from Catholic leaders about the lack of concrete action since the leak of the draft order.
'We hope that President Trump and his administration will take action soon, especially to provide relief from the onerous HHS mandate,' said Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the US bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The HHS mandate requires most religious employers to provide contraception coverage for their employees even if it violates their conscience.
He said that he hoped Trump could end the discrimination against religious employers, and 'allow people of faith to have the freedom to serve others in all our ministries, including our soup kitchens, schools, adoption services, homeless shelters and refugee services'.
Last week Leading Southern Baptist Russell Moore also urged the President to move forward with the executive order.
He said: 'Freedom of conscience and religious liberty are of utmost importance to us, and to millions of other religious people in the United States. We support an executive order making clear that people of religious conviction will not be pushed aside by the federal government as we seek to serve our neighbours, including those who disagree with us.'
The White House has so far refrained from comment on the order. When asked, a White House spokesperson said: 'We do not have plans to sign anything at this time.'