Here we go again. President Trump issued another executive order that is now being threatened by a federal judge and will possibly be struck down. A Wisconsin-based atheist group has filed a lawsuit requesting that a federal judge dismisses Trump’s executive order easing enforcement of an IRS rule that limits religious organizations’ political activity. The order, signed on The National Day of Prayer, was hailed as securing religious liberty by many conservatives.
The IRS rule is grounded in a 1954 federal law that prohibits tax-exempt charitable organizations like churches from participating in political campaigns. If the group is found to be in violation, they could lose their tax-exempt status. The law is known as the Johnson Amendment, and it is rarely enforced. Investigations of cases in violation are not made public by the IRS, but only one church is known to have lost its tax-exempt status as a result of this law.
President Trump made promises to conservative Christians who gave strong support to his campaign that he would block the regulation. On May 4th, he signed the executive order directing the Treasury Department not to take “adverse action” against churches or religious organizations for political speech. He proclaimed that he was giving churches their voices back.
His actions have now raised the voice of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They filed a lawsuit hours after the order was signed. The Madison, Wisconsin-based group now argues that the order is unconstitutional because it grants preferential treatment to religious organizations while secular groups must still keep the existing law. They also claim that the president lacks the authority to overturn a legitimate law. “As a result of President Trump’s (order), churches and religious organizations will be able to blatantly and deliberately flaunt the electioneering restrictions … including during the upcoming 2018 elections, unlike secular non-profits, including FFRF,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit seeks that an injunction is given by the federal judge to keep the IRS from implementing Trump’s order. It also asks the judge to force the federal tax agency to enforce the restrictions against churches and other religious organizations. The spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice, Ian Prior, called the president’s order “a lawful directive to honor First Amendment freedoms. “We will vigorously defend the Order, and the exercise of religious freedom in America,” Prior said in an email.
We are ready for the Red-Blue Divide family to weigh in on this executive order and the atheist group’s lawsuit.
Credit: Chicago Tribune