ACLU: President Trump's 'Religious Liberty' Executive Order Has 'No Discernible Policy Outcome'

Camille Rivera
May 17, 2017

Metcalf-Armstrong said although the order stops short allowing groups and businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community- the overall vagueness of the executive order could be risky.

But religious leaders like the Rev. David Sickelka, senior minister at Urbandale United Church of Christ, think it could only create more divide and discrimination.

Defenders of the amendment, championed by President Lyndon B. Johnson when he was a Democratic U.S. senator for Texas and passed by a Republican-controlled Congress, say the provision prevents the government from using taxpayer money to subsidize partisan politicking. "We are giving our churches their voices back".

"Today's executive order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome", American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement.

The 1954 Johnson Amendment restricts political activity by nonprofits, and a year ago on the campaign trail, Trump told a meeting of 100 evangelical and conservative Catholic leaders he would abolish that rule, at least inasmuch as it pertains to religious entities.

Several religious leaders who supported Trump praised the order as a first step in what would be a lengthy, hard process of reworking a web of regulations that many religious conservatives consider unfair.

As GOOD reported Wednesday, groups including GLAAD and the National LGBTQ Task Force, were condemning the order before it was even signed.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump said the new order would ensure the federal government did not penalize anyone for their constitutionally protected religious beliefs.

Thursday's executive order focuses on the Johnson Amendment. It allows churches and other religious and charitable organizations to carry out political action without worrying about losing their tax-exempt status.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, the order of Catholic nuns that has operated a nursing home in Baltimore since 1869, is celebrating an executive order President Donald Trump signed Thursday promising to offer "regulatory relief" to groups with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

The FFRF is calling the order unconstitutional. "If they take action based on this executive order that harms our community, we will sue".

This includes a ban on making financial contributions to campaigns and candidates, but the law does allow certain non-partisan political activity such as voter registration or get-out-the-vote drives.

"Though we appreciate the spirit of today's gesture, vague instructions to federal agencies simply leaves them wiggle room to ignore that gesture, regardless of the spirit in which it was intended", Farris said in a statement.

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