Trump's Religious Freedom Order Could Boost His Opponents
- Author: Nancy Warren May 06, 2017,
May 06, 2017, 2:03
Trump said his action is meant to ensure that people are not penalized for their "protected religious beliefs" and that religious institutions are not "unfairly" targeted for political speech. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been and remains committed to political neutrality.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that allows tax-exempt places of worship to participate actively in politics and could free religious organizations to deny their employees insurance coverage for birth-control pills.
Evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders as well as a prominent USA rabbi joined Trump when he signed the order instructing the Internal Revenue Service to "alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment", the 1954 law prohibiting organizations that have tax-free status, including churches, from participating in political campaigns or supporting any particular candidate.
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Opponents, however, fear it is a big step back for democracy and could entice religious leaders to take political positions, casting a shadow on their credibility as spiritual leaders.
Trump will sign the executive order Thursday morning on the National Day of Prayer. "We are giving our churches their voices back and we are giving them back in the highest form".
While Trump's action was applauded by many in the Rose Garden, some religious groups criticized him for what they characterized as a vague directive that didn't live up to his campaign rhetoric. It allows religious organizations to be more politically active and endorse candidates without losing their tax-exempt status. "We intend to file suit today".
People are using the hashtags #LicenseToDiscriminate and #TrumpForgetsMuslimBan on Twitter to question President Trump's motives and point out that he conveniently put aside religious liberty when he signed two executive orders calling for a ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries. He directed the attorney general to "as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law".
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The provision is written in the tax code and would require an act of Congress to repeal fully.
Trump promised to "totally destroy" the law prohibiting the political activities when he spoke in February at the National Prayer Breakfast, a high-profile Washington event with faith leaders, politicians and dignitaries.
"It was quite historic and very encouraging to know that this administration is all in on religious liberty, and we're very grateful for that", Floyd said. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: without any of the substantive conscience protections and rollbacks of Obama-era policies like the ones in the original draft, this particular order falls well short of the multiple promises that President Trump made on the campaign trail to defend conscience rights for all Americans.
"The idea of taxpayers footing the bill to enable more dark money in our already broken political system is appalling", said Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for the group, which said the order "threatens another "Citizens United moment" with elections subjected to a whole new tsunami of secret and unaccountable money".
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Conservative Christian churches have become increasingly concerned that the federal government could come after their tax-exempt status if they profess opposition to gay rights and same-sex marriage.