Explainer: What You Should Know About the Republican Party Platform (Part I)
Religion & Liberty Online

Explainer: What You Should Know About the Republican Party Platform (Part I)

During the recent Republican National Convention the GOP delegates voted to adopt their party’s platform, a document that outlines the statement of principles and policies that the party has decided it will support.

Although the document is not binding on the presidential nominee or any other politicians, political scientists have found that over the past 30 years lawmakers in Congress tend to vote in line with their party’s platform: 89 percent of the time for Republicans and 79 percent of the time for Democrats.

Because of its significance to political decision-making, Americans should be aware of what is proposed in these documents. In this article, we’ll examine a summary outline of the Republican platform as it relates to several non-economic issues covered by the Acton Institute. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the GOP’s economic agenda as laid out in the platform. (Next week, after the Democratic National Convention, we’ll examine their platform’s stance on the same and related issues.)

Conscience rights

Supports the ability of all organizations to “provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral, or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty.”

Supports the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.

Criminal Justice Reform

Urges caution in the creation of new “crimes” and a bipartisan presidential commission to purge the Code and the body of regulations of old “crimes.” Calls for mens rea elements in the definition of any new crimes to protect Americans who, in violating a law, act unknowingly or without criminal intent. Urges Congress to codify the Common Law’s Rule of Lenity, which requires courts to interpret unclear statutes in favor of a defendant.

Calls for mandatory prison time for all assaults involving serious injury to law enforcement officers.

Supports protecting the rights of victims and their families by allowing them to be told all relevant information about their case, allowed to be present for its trial, assured a voice in sentencing and parole hearings, given access to social and legal services, and benefit from the Crime Victims Fund.

Supports protecting prisoners against cruel or degrading treatment by other inmates.

Encourage states to offer opportunities for literacy and vocational education to prepare prisoners for release to the community.


Supports a constitutional amendment to protect parental rights “from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations.”

Supports school choice for all students. Proposes that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and “through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.”

Opposes the imposition of national standards and assessments.

Encourages state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools.

Supports background checks for all personnel who interact with school children

Supports options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools.

Supports the prompt investigation by civil authorities and prosecution in a courtroom of sexual assault claims, rather than having them adjudicated in the “faculty lounge” of colleges. Those convicted of sexual assault should be punished to the full extent of the law.

Human Trafficking

Supports using the full force of the law against those who engage in commercial sexual exploitation and forced or bonded labor of men, women, or children; involuntary domestic servitude; trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal; and the illegal recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Calls for increased diplomatic efforts and accountability for foreign governments to prosecute traffickers, including “penalties for any public officials who may be complicit in this devastating crime.”

Calls for the need to stop slave labor by “taking steps to prevent overseas labor contractors who exploit foreign workers from supporting military bases abroad or exporting goods to the United States.”

Calls for working at home and abroad to “ensure that trafficking victims are identified among migrants, refugees, and our own citizens so they receive the rehabilitative care needed to heal and thrive.”

Calls for the goal of our domestic antitrafficking programs to be the “rescue and safe return of victims to their homes, not creating a long-term dependency upon public support.”


Supports evaluation of poverty programs based on whether they actually reduce poverty and increases the personal independence of its participants.

Supports work requirements for poverty programs. Urge greater state and local responsibility for, and control over, public assistance programs.

Religious Liberty

Opposes government discrimination against businesses or entities which decline to sell items or services to individuals for activities that go against their religious views about such activities.
Opposes any efforts to tax religious organizations.

Supports the right of “America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith.” Says that the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs, and “therefore we urge the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.”

Pledges to “defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control.” Endorses the First Amendment Defense Act, legislation in the House and Senate which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman: “This Act would protect the non-profit tax status of faith-based adoption agencies, the accreditation of religious educational institutions, the grants and contracts of faith-based charities and small businesses, and the licensing of religious professions — all of which are under assault by elements of the Democratic Party.” Encourages every state to pass similar legislation.

Endorse the efforts of Republican state legislators and governors who have “defied intimidation from corporations and the media in defending religious liberty.”

Supports laws to confirm the “longstanding American tradition that religious individuals and institutions can educate young people, receive government benefits, and participate in public debates without having to check their religious beliefs at the door.”

Supports the freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, not only in their houses of worship, but also in their everyday lives.
Supports the right of the people to conduct their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs and condemn public officials who have proposed boycotts against businesses that support traditional marriage. Pledges to protect those business owners who have been “subjected to hate campaigns, threats of violence, and other attempts to deny their civil rights.”
Supports the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.”

Affirms the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities. Supports the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious, private, service, and youth organizations to set their own membership standards.

Supports the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Calls for the U.S. to “stand with leaders” who has protect the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and calls on other leaders across the region to ensure that all religious minorities, “whether Yazidi, Bahai, Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant Christians” are free to practice their religion without fear of persecution.

Supports restoring “advocacy of religious liberty” to its “central place” diplomacy.

Supports the designation of the systematic killing of religious and ethnic minorities as genocide, and “will work with the leaders of other nations to condemn and combat genocidal acts.”

Supports “standing up for repressed religious groups, prisoners of conscience, women trafficked into sexual slavery, and those suffering from disease or starvation.”

Supports the adoption of a “whole of government” approach to protect fundamental freedoms globally, “one where pressing human rights and rule of law issues are integrated at every appropriate level of our bilateral relationships and strategic decision making.”

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).