President Trump is sure to please religious conservatives with an executive order that he will sign on Thursday. Those on the right who backed his presidency in such heavy numbers will be thrilled. With this order designed to “protect and vigorously promote religious liberty” and “alleviate the burden” of a law designed to prohibit religious leaders from speaking out about politics, according to senior administration officials.
The new executive order from the president will primarily focus on two issues. The first is making it easier for employers with religious objections not to include contraception coverage in worker’s health care plans. The second will ease the IRS enforcement of the so-called Johnson Amendment. This amendment says that tax-exempt religious organizations cannot participate in political activity. This order will pave the way for churches and other religious leaders to speak about politics. The new executive order will even allow religious leaders to endorse candidates without the fear that they will lose their tax-exempt status.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign are geared up for a battle saying that they would immediately file legal challenges against the presidential order. They expressed concerns that Trump’s order would encourage employers to deny birth control services and enable discrimination against gays and religious minorities. “It would create an unprecedented license to discriminate with taxpayers’ funds, undermine women’s health care and elevate one narrow set of religious beliefs over all others,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign.
The president is planning to sign this order on the National Day of Prayer. “There could be no better day to sign an executive order on religious freedom than the National Day of Prayer,” said Mat Staver who heads the Liberty Counsel. Religious conservatives have urged President Trump to renew what they say is an “appreciation for religious freedom,” which they believe Obama undermined. “It’s simply bringing the federal government back in line with [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act],” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said last month about the need for an executive order.
What are your thoughts about this executive order? Should religious leaders be able to speak politically and endorse candidates? What about the right to not include contraception in employee benefits?
Credit: USA Today