USA – Developments in Washington

CNA | Maureen Ferguson | January 31, 2020

One can be forgiven for thinking all of Washington, D.C., has been consumed by impeachment frenzy these past weeks. Look closer, though, and you’ll see that while Trump administration lawyers have been tied down by the Senate trial, other administration officials have been engaged in a flurry of policy making. These new policies have gone largely unnoticed, but they are of crucial – and positive – importance to all people of faith.   

The last weeks alone have witnessed sweeping developments on prayer in public schools, discrimination against religious organizations, mandatory abortion coverage in health insurance plans, and government funding of programs encouraging childbirth over abortion. Additionally, the president himself attended the March for Life, and Vice President Pence held a significant meeting with Pope Francis.

On school prayer, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued guidance clarifying that students do not compromise their right to pray because they attend a public school or university. The DeVos directive also ensures that religious student groups remain on equal footing with secular student groups. This is a critical response to the recent trend of universities’ disallowing any and all religious expression or association at public institutions of higher education. As DeVos stated, “Too many misinterpret a separation of church and state as an invitation for government to separate people from their faith.”

Public colleges and universities won’t be able to get away with this any longer, thanks to the Trump Administration. The DeVos directive reaffirms the First Amendment right of students to express religious beliefs in their schoolwork as well as to gather to pray at appropriate times. This sends a strong message to school bureaucrats inclined to ban students from praying before high school football games or to defund Christian student groups at public universities.