Leading Southern Baptist Russell Moore has urged President Trump to move forward with a controversial executive order on religious liberty that would grant "protections to people of faith". Critics have called the order "unconstitutional and un-American".
Last week an executive order of Trump's was leaked with the title 'Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom'.
"Americans and their religious organisations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience," said the leaked draft obtained by The Nation and The Investigative Fund.
Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, responded to the leak on Friday. He said: "I urge the president to move forward with his plans to issue an executive order that would grant protections to people of faith, allowing believers with strong, and sometimes unpopular, convictions to serve the public. Executive action is not enough – we also need strong legislative action – but this executive order would be a strong start.
"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 neighbors, including those who disagree with us."
The order is a controversial one that if enacted would delight Christian conservatives but outrage liberals. Critics have described it as "unconstitutional and un-American". Chad Griffin of the progressive group Human Rights Campaign called the order "sweeping and dangerous," adding that "If Donald Trump goes through with even a fraction of this order, he'll reveal himself as a true enemy to LGBTQ people."
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.
Specifically, the order seeks specifically to protect the tax-exempt status of any organisation that "believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life".
Religious freedom has been a frequent flashpoint for evangelicals concerened about a culture that they perceive as hostile to traditional moral teachings. The White House has not yet confirmed nor denied the proposed order.