Trump to form group for workplace religious freedom

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NEW YORK (BP) -- A new coalition of U.S. businesses to protect religious freedom in the workplace is among U.S. President Donald Trump's latest initiatives, Trump said Monday (Sept. 23) at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

"This initiative will encourage the private sector to protect people of all faiths in the workplace," Trump said in hosting the 11:30 a.m. Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom. "Too often, people in positions of power preach diversity while silencing, shunning or censoring the faithful.

"True tolerance means respecting the right of all people to express their deeply held religious beliefs," Trump said, citing statistics that 83 percent of the world's population lives in countries with religious persecution.

Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, applauded the event attended by more than 100 governmental leaders and members of persecuted faith communities globally, including Christians, Jewish leaders and Muslims.

"I applaud today's call to broaden international support for the protection of religious freedom," Floyd told Baptist Press. "This is especially important in the wake of increasing persecution of people on the basis of their beliefs, and the growing number of attacks on and destruction of houses of worship.

"It is time to bring an end to religious persecution and do all we can to see crimes cease against people of faith," Floyd said. "I am grateful for President Trump speaking and leading in this global effort."

Floyd described religious freedom as a "first freedom" in America.

"We should work to take the Gospel to the nations to see hearts and minds around the world changed so that all tribes, tongues and nations can freely and safely worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Floyd told BP.

Trump pledged an additional $25 million in U.S. funding to protect religious sites and relics from criminal attacks.

"These evil attacks are a wound on all humanity. We must all work together to protect communities of every faith," Trump said. "We're also urging every nation to increase the prosecution and punishment of crimes against religious communities. There can be no greater crime than that."

Trump proclaimed religious liberty one of his highest priorities as president.

"Today with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution," Trump said. "To stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief, protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed, America stands with believers in every country who ask only for the freedom to live according to the faith that is within their own hearts."

Joining Trump were U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, formerly imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson, and various administration representatives.

Kelly Craft, newly appointed U.S. ambassador to the U.N., praised Trump's progress.

"His administration has vigorously defended religious freedom and the freedom of conscience in the United States," she said, "and under his guidance the state Department has become a watchful defender of religious liberty, especially through the 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, the largest freedom event of its kind in the world."

The new business group for workplace religious freedom would be the first of its kind, Trump said. He didn't name members of the group, but said it would include some of the "most successful men and women on earth" whom he described as "great business leaders, great people of strength."

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.
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