Trump signs religious freedom executive order
LEXINGTON, Ky (WTVQ)-
President Trump signed an executive order today that ‘he’ says looks to give religious institutions more leeway when it comes to speaking out on political issues.
Currently, under the Johnson Amendment, churches are not allowed to endorse or oppose a political candidate.
Those who do could lose their tax-exempt status.
President Trump’s executive order does not exactly change that but instead looks to weaken the government’s enforcement of the law.
Surrounded by a variety of religious leaders, President Trump signed an executive order calling on the IRS to essentially refrain from going after churches who speak out on political issues.
“This financial threat against the faith community is over. No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors,” said President Trump.
The order also offers “regulatory relief” for health care providers who don’t want to provide birth control, for religious reasons.
One thing that was not included was a provision allowing religious organizations to avoid serving and hiring members of the LGBTQ community.
In the hours since it was signed, the order has received mixed reactions.
Liberal religious leaders saying it goes too far.
“It allows those same venues of revenue to be used for political action committees and I think even for the very very large churches which are typically conservative evangelical, I think it really gives them a gateway to have a lot of money flow through the campaign finance regulations that are in place,” said Pastor Marsha Moors-Charles, with Bluegrass United Church of Christ.
Conservatives saying it doesn’t go far enough.
“With the Obergefell decision and the same sex marriage authorization, there’s some conflicts with religious liberty there. On one hand the baker should serve pies and cookies and cupcakes to everyone but should that baker have to invest himself in a wedding cake for a ceremony that is against his faith,” said Kent Ostrander, with the Family Foundation.
But Trump says the order is an important one.
“These are two very, very special executive orders,” said Trump.
It is rare that the IRS actually goes after a religious organization for breaking the Johnson Amendment.
According to the New York Times, it has only happened once.