Trump signs executive order to promote religious liberty

U.S. President Donald Trump walks to sign an executive order aimed at easing an IRS rule limiting political activity for churches on Thursday
Trump signs order to ease ban on political activity by churches

09 May, 2017

Another part of Thursday's executive order is giving "regulatory relief" to companies like Hobby Lobby who object to the Obamacare mandate for contraception in health care.

The American Civil Liberties Union is not that anxious about President Trump's new "religious liberty" executive order.

Many have criticized the order as vague as to what the federal government actually will do.

"Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation", Trump said at the White House during National Day of Prayer event with religious leaders and White House staff.

The order also attempts to dilute the Johnson amendment, which prevents tax-exempt religious organizations from participating in political speech, like endorsing or opposing a political candidate.

"This is neither what religious freedom means in the eyes of the law, nor what religion itself means to millions of Americans of faith".

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Liberal religious leaders saying it goes too far. The group wants the court to declare that it gives preferential treatment to churches and halt the IRS from implementing it. It doesn't reverse the ban on churches endorsing candidates that is contained in a 1954 law known as the Johnson Amendment (which isn't aggressively enforced in any case).

Trump added, "That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution". "A majority of clergy - and Americans - support the status quo and oppose political endorsements from the pulpit", Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline said.

The White House has indicated that this measure is just the beginning of a long road to dismantle the Johnson Amendment. "What President Trump did today was merely provide a faux sop to religious conservatives and kick the can down the road on religious exemptions on reproductive health care services". Churches could become major factors in the financing of political campaigns and conduits for unaccountable special-interest political contributions.

Briefing reporters ahead of the signing on Wednesday evening, a senior official downplayed the possibility that churches would soon act as political groups advocating for particular candidates. Young thinks churches should be able to do so, without losing their tax-exempt status. "So we're not changing what's legal, we're not changing what's illegal, just enforcement discretion".

Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board who was at the signing ceremony, said that Christian conservatives are being "unrealistic" for thinking that Trump can solve all religious liberty issues in one executive order.

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