Trump signs executive order to promote religious liberty

Trump signs executive order to'vigorously promote religious liberty

The civil rights group said Thursday it would not file a lawsuit against the president's order aimed at weakening prohibitions on political activity by religious organizations because they believe it has "no discernible policy outcome".

Trump's executive order, signed Thursday and titled "Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty", doesn't repeal the Johnson Amendment.

While a draft of the order was being considered this week, it was reported that a portion of the decree would have allowed faith-based organizations and companies to avoid serving or hiring LGBT or any other group that affronts their personal religious beliefs.

"The executive order also provides regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare's burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby", said the senior White House official.

The order also specifies that the Department of the Treasury and other federal agencies should not pursue adverse action, most prominently revocation of tax-exempt status, based on the speech of religious individuals and organizations in relation to moral and political issues not "ordinarily ... treated as participation ... in a political campaign". The IRS investigated Johnson Amendment cases only a handful of times, including once against a NY church that purchased newspaper ads opposing the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 and once against a California church where a pastor preached an anti-war sermon in 2004 that specifically called out presidential candidates. "We should say thank you, but [what the executive order does] should have been totally expected". Using a National Day of Prayer event at the White House for the political act, Trump signed an order he claimed would give "our churches their voices back" and "not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore". "But some politicians and a few interest groups looking to solidify their political power continue to push it to further their agenda".

He said today's executive order was a "giant step", but it was only the first of many steps in changing the government's attitude toward religion. And as an organization committed to ensuring religious freedom for all people, we know that separation of church and state is created to protect both.

On Thursday, several Jewish groups and leaders came out against the executive order, saying the amendment was a bulwark that prevents the mixing of prayer and politics.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Many evangelical Christians have long wanted religious people to have more freedom to act on their religious beliefs, more freedom, for example, to reject same-sex unions and transgender identities.

The order, which Trump unveiled with great fanfare in a Rose Garden ceremony, was cheered by some conservative Christians but seen as a disappointment by others, who said it fell short of the broader changes they wanted as part of a highly anticipated measure on religious liberties. Such an order would radically redefine what constitutes a religious organization, and reports of its consideration raised widespread backlash and predictions that the rules would not hold up in court.

SIEGEL: This executive order is controversial. "President Trump's executive order reportedly aims to gut the Johnson Amendment and clear the way for the Religious Right to weaponize their churches for partisan battle".

The Johnson amendment, named for then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, was put into force in 1954.

The IRS does not make public its investigations of such cases, but only one church is known to have lost its tax-exempt status because of political activity. A 2016 LifeWay poll found that only 19 percent of Americans agree with the statement "it is appropriate for pastors to publicly endorse political candidates during a church service", and a 2013 Pew Research Center survey that found two-thirds of Americans think clergy should not endorse political candidates. That could have a dramatic effect on campaign fundraising, if churches and nonprofits were allowed to funnel tax-free money into political campaigns. I know you'll only say good'.

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