Trump celebrates Religious Freedom Day and will say a school prayer today at the White House

SALT LAKE CITY – The Trump administration has announced new efforts to protect faith-based nonprofits, student religious groups, and prayer in schools.

The Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal offices presented their plans in press releases issued Thursday morning. Each department will extend the protection of organizations affiliated with religious organizations participating in government programs in accordance with a 2018 decree calling for stronger church-state partnerships.

“Americans of faith play a vital role in providing health care and human services to so many vulnerable people and communities, and President Trump is determined to remove all the unfair barriers that hinder this important work,” said HHS secretary Alex Azar in his ministry statement.

Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, also praised the administration’s efforts, saying it shares “President Donald Trump’s commitment to freedom of religion and the First Amendment.”

“Our actions today will protect the constitutional rights of students, teachers and faith-based institutions,” she said.

Later Thursday, Trump is expected to meet with students from across the country and to comment on prayer in schools.

The President should not change existing policy. Instead, it will work with education leaders to ensure that current protections are applied. Students are allowed to pray privately in class and elsewhere on school grounds, but school-sponsored prayers were banned by the Supreme Court in 1962.

The Trump administration plans to send a letter to education officials across the country highlighting these rules and reminding them that their schools could lose federal funds if they mistreat religious students. These efforts will help stop the erosion of existing protections caused by growing hostility to religion, said Joe Nogan, director of the White House of NPR’s domestic policy council.

This story will be updated.