Trump signs executive order to 'vigorously promote religious liberty'

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The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FRFF) filed a lawsuit seeking to end an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that would allow churches and other tax-exempt religious entities to take more of a vocal role in politics without fear financial repercussions.

"President Trump's executive order did not ease the current restrictions on political activity by religious organizations", said Lawrence Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center.

A 1954 federal law prohibits tax-exempt charitable organizations such as churches from participating in political campaigns.

The order, which declares that it is the policy of the Trump administration "to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty", also stops short of offering broad exceptions for groups to deny services based on religious grounds.

Several leaders interviewed said they anxious that Trump's move could be unevenly enforced, allowing conservative Christian churches to promote political candidates without extending the same exemptions to other views or other denominations.

But Little Sisters Mother Provincial Mother Loraine Maguire, who stood beside Trump during the signing ceremony, issued a statement expressing the religious order's support.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to the media after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left the White House in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2017. "Jefferson asked, 'Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?' Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs".

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RYAN ANDERSON: This doesn't address the pressing needs on religious liberty that exist today.

As a candidate and shortly after taking office, Trump declared he would "totally destroy" what's known as the Johnson Amendment, a six-decade-old ban on churches and other tax-exempt organizations supporting political candidates.

Leaders of some faith groups condemned the order, saying it would damage congregations by politicizing them.

Is this the kind of religious liberty protection that is needed today? But repealing it would first require an act of Congress. Neither of those policy changes was directly brought into effect by the order.

"It seems like one class of citizens has been segregated out in America and told you can not exercise freedom of speech", Clements said.

But the White House had previously said Trump would urge the IRS to use "maximum discretion" in enforcing laws regarding religious organizations and offer "regulatory relief" to religious objectors to contraception coverage.

"The order portends, but does not yet do harm to the provision of reproductive health services", he added. We will see Trump in court, again.

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