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Presidential Commission on Religious Freedom

Presidential Commission on Religious Freedom

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Published by Newt2012HQ
Establishing a presidential commission to examine and document threats or impediments to religious freedom in the United States and to propose steps for reaffirming and protecting the foundational principle of freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief upon which our republic is built and thrives.
Establishing a presidential commission to examine and document threats or impediments to religious freedom in the United States and to propose steps for reaffirming and protecting the foundational principle of freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief upon which our republic is built and thrives.

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Published by: Newt2012HQ on Dec 19, 2011
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04/17/2013

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 DRAFT – 12/26/11 – 10:30 am(Paid for by NEWT 2012)
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Presidential Commission on Religious Freedom
(A Proposed “On Day One” Executive Order of Newt Gingrich’s21
st
Century Contract with America)
 Establishing a presidential commission to examine and document threats or impediments to religious freedom in the United States and to propose steps for reaffirming and protecting the foundational principle of freedom of thought,conscience, and religious belief upon which our republic is built and thrives.
 _______________________________
CONSCIENCE IS THE MOST SACRED OF ALL PROPERTY;OTHER PROPERTY DEPENDING IN PART ON POSITIVE LAW,THE EXERCISE OF THAT, BEING A NATURAL AND UNALIENABLE RIGHT.James Madison
 Property
(1792)
 _______________________________
Summary
Our Founding Fathers believed that a government is not legitimate unless it is first groundedin the principles of individual liberty and free will, which begin with freedom of religion andconscience. Only a society that protects the dignity of every person—the freedom to believeor not to believe, to speak freely about one’s beliefs or to remain silent; one’s right to actaccording to the dictates of conscience; and ultimately, one’s prerogative to remain personallyaccountable to his Creator in each of those areas—could be considered just or morallylegitimate.Our Founders also understood secondly that whenever there is a state-sponsored religion, thegovernment tends to encroach upon, to increasingly regulate, and finally to dictate religious belief and expression. A government may do this directly, by usurping the right to conscience belonging solely to the individual, church, or religious institution, or indirectly, by graduallyeroding the pillars of religious life that generate and strengthen the social vibrancy and moralcommitments of a self-governing republic.
 
 DRAFT – 12/26/11 – 10:30 am(Paid for by NEWT 2012)
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It is because of these two fundamental insights by the Founders that religious liberty is thecornerstone of American freedom and the guiding force that makes America exceptional. Thefreedom to know and pursue God is not a Republican or Democratic value; neither is it liberalor conservative. It is a universal thirst written into the heart of every person.Only when a government is firmly committed to religious freedom can religious vibrancy andmoral strength be cultivated in a nation. A government that fails to respect the dignity of every person, beginning first and foremost with his or her freedom of conscience and religiousliberty, surrenders its rightful authority to govern, if it ever had it in the first place.A commitment to religious pluralism—or affording every individual’s religious beliefs theequal protection of the law—is not the same as saying all beliefs are equal. Tolerating adiffering opinion does not make that opinion true, but it does respect the right of theindividual to possess it and express it, and it trusts in the equal ability and right of every person to discern truth for himself.Today, the foundations for religious freedom in America are being eroded. The meaning of the First Amendment has been twisted to fit a post-modern world.As a result, public expressions of faith in some quarters have gone from normal tounacceptable. The abuses are well documented. Year after year, our courts are filled withhundreds of cases based upon the anti-religious misconceptions of the First Amendment,which are then reinforced by judges determined to impose their own views on other citizens.Moreover, as litigants demand that courts and judges intervene to create new “rights” out of whole cloth, others seek to limit the freedom of others to express their deeply held religiouscommitments to, for example, the value of every human life and to marriage as between oneman and one woman.This situation poses a stark challenge to religious freedom in the United States.
What We Propose To Do
For this reason, as part of its “On Day One” Executive Order project of the 21
st
CenturyContract with America, NEWT 2012 will publish a final draft of a proposed executive order in September 2012. That order, which will be signed on the first day of a Gingrichadministration, will establish a presidential commission on religious freedom.In the meantime, NEWT 2012 puts forth today an initial outline of the mission of the presidential commission on religious freedom; and a plan for a campaign working group thatwill finalize the details of the executive order.We also offer a set of materials, including excerpts from Newt Gingrich’s book 
 A Nation Like No Other 
, to provide guidance and context for the commission. These include a statementabout the Founders’ vision for religion and public life; an explanation of how America’s
 
 DRAFT – 12/26/11 – 10:30 am(Paid for by NEWT 2012)
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religious freedom has been a powerful force for good at home and throughout the world; anda preliminary assessment of why there is a need for a presidential commission on religiousfreedom. We expect the material in this paper will develop further in the months ahead.
NEWT 2012 Executive Order on Religious Freedom Working Group
 NEWT 2012 will put together a working group over the course of the primary and generalelection campaign that will finalize the executive order for the presidential commission onreligious freedom. The final draft of the executive order will be published on September 27,2012, along with other campaign executive orders as part of NEWT 2012’s 21
st
CenturyContract with America. The draft outline of the executive order set forth below will helpguide the working group in its work.
Draft Outline of an Executive Order Establishing aPresidential Commission on Religious FreedomMission
The mission of the religious freedom commission will be to advise the president on issues thatthreaten or impede the religious freedom that all Americans enjoy as an unalienable rightfrom our Creator, which the First Amendment to the Constitution explicitly protects.In examining and investigating threats or impediments to religious freedom, the religiousfreedom commission should examine and investigate:1.
 
Interpretation by courts throughout the U.S. of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The Commission should also reviewthe Religious Freedom Restoration Act and recommend what new legislation might be pursued to achieve its original aims.2.
 
The status of religious freedom and freedom of conscience in schools from primary touniversity level.3.
 
The impact on religious freedom of new policies and regulations of the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the delivery of health and healthcare services inthe United States, including for example, any new HHS mandate that would requirehealth-insurance plans to cover contraception, sterilization and drugs known to induceabortion that may violate and interfere with the religious freedom of individuals, andthe weakening of conscience clause protections for healthcare workers.4.
 
How U.S. national interests (social, economic, and security) could be supported by promoting greater religious freedom abroad, and conversely, how U.S. nationalinterests have been hindered by a lack of religious freedom abroad. In addition, theCommission should examine the International Religious Freedom Act with a view torecommending improvements.

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