United States President Donald Trump To Ease Restrictions Against Religious Groups

President Trump chose the National Day of Prayer to sign an executive order asking the IRS to use "maximum enforcement discretion" over a rarely enforced regulation known as the Johnson Amendment.

The order's signing, coinciding with the National Day of Prayer, fulfills a key campaign promise by Trump, who once told a crowd of religious leaders that he envisioned a future in which they would be able to openly support political candidates.

US President Donald Trump's executive order on religious freedom has been described as an "elaborate photo opportunity" by a civil liberties group.

Essentially, the new order directs the Internal Revenue Service to ease its already nearly nonexistent enforcement of the 1954 "Johnson Amendment", named for President Lyndon Johnson, which prohibits churches and other nonprofits, like the one that once came after LBJ, from endorsing or funding a candidate.

Trump noted that "freedom is not a gift from government, freedom is a gift from God".

The White House says the order is necessary to protect religious groups that had been "persecuted by the Obama administration" such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group which faced huge fines over their refusal to pay for contraception under Obamacare.

Trump welcomed religious leaders of different faiths in the Rose Garden of the White House to mark the occasion. While some have complained about the time Trump has taken to loose restrictions against religious groups, other conservative religious leaders will likely be upset that his order will fall short of the broader action they have been advocating. The specific section referenced in the order has been used by these agencies to require religious employers to provide contraceptives and other types of services in contravention of their beliefs.

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".

"No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors", said the President.

He said he was "directing the Department of Justice to develop new rules to ensure these religious protections are afforded to all Americans".

One thing that was not included was a provision allowing religious organizations to avoid serving and hiring members of the LGBTQ community.

"I just don't see it, how it changes anything in particular and I think sometime a lot of these executive orders are symbolic rather than substantive", said Young.

"These visits will take place ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation G7 meetings, and will begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world", Trump said.

That may be why nearly no one other than Trump seems to care much about the Johnson Amendment.

  • Jon Douglas