An executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Thursday morning blurs lines between faith and politics, allowing religious leaders to speak about political candidates from the pulpit. The White House argues the order promotes free speech and religious liberty, but local faith leaders believe some religious institutions may use the order to discriminate against marginalized groups.
“Frankly, I find it disturbing,” said the Rev. Lynn Fritz of the Center for Spiritual Living. “Faith leaders have a powerful influence, and this is abuse of power.”
Fritz said places of faith have always been neutral, and should continue to be a place free of politics.
Fritz is part of the Shasta County Interfaith Forum, a group of faith leaders from different backgrounds who come together to promote awareness and advocacy in the community.
The Very Rev. Paul Blanch from the All Saints’ Episcopal Church is also part of the same forum. Blanch hails from the United Kingdom and has been in Redding for two years, and although he’s not yet an American citizen, he knows what it’s like to live in a country where faith and politics cross.
“I come from a country where church and state are intertwined,” he said. “In the U.S., the strength and the genius of the Founding Fathers was the separation of church and state.”
From his standpoint, Blanch believes the order promotes bigotry, especially against women and LGBTQ groups. And having served and counseled a diverse crowd of people in the past, especially those who were asked to leave their church because of their sexual orientation, he sees the order as “contrary to the gospel” serving only white Christian Americans.
“It will give people legally the right to exercise prejudice,” he said. “It makes me question how long I can stay in the US.”
It’s a sentiment that many leaders across the country feel. About 1,300 faith leaders sent an open letter to President Trump opposing the order.
“The religious freedom of individuals and organizations, including that of…