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09 May 2017, 08:04 | Clarence Schmidt
Trump signs order to ease ban on political activity by churches
A Wisconsin-based atheist group is asking a federal judge to strike down President Donald Trump's latest executive order, which is created to protect religious freedoms.
"The religious freedom of individuals and organizations, including that of clergy and houses of worship, is already protected by the First Amendment and federal law".
Both praise and criticism following the President's new executive order that could allow religious groups to become more politically active. But some experts said it amounts to a mostly symbolic gesture with little likelihood of changing how the agency polices the issue.
The executive order also addresses religious objections noted in former President Barack Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act, which required employers to cover contraceptives in insurance packages.
"We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore", Trump said about the order while marking the National Day of Prayer, CNN reports.
Critics were bracing for the worst after a leaked version of the bill from January appeared to allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees, among other sweeping provisions.
GJELTEN: Trump's actual order, however, only directed the Justice Department to, quote, "issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law".
Vander Plaats added that Trump's executive order is a step in the right direction.
"We will preach the truths, we will preach the values of our faith, and we will leave it up to the people in the pews to vote according to those values, but to let them make their own decisions about who and what candidates to vote for", said Starkovich.
"If Trump singles out just churches from this prohibition, he's showing favoritism", she says.
President Donald Trump signs an executive order aimed at easing an IRS rule limiting political activity for churches, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. "With this executive order, we are ending the attacks on your religious liberty, and we are proudly reaffirming America's leadership role as a nation that protects religious freedom for everyone", Trump said.
The Johnson Amendment, named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas and enacted into law in 1954, restricts tax-exempt organizations, including churches and religious organizations, from endorsing or opposing candidates for elected office.
The provision applies to all tax-exempt organizations, including many colleges and foundations.
However, many religious groups did praise the president for the move.
This executive order is simply a promise to dismantle the Johnson Amendment, fully repealing the amendment will require action from Congress.
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