Order limits IRS action on religious organizations

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Rose Garden of the of the White House in Washington Thursday

"This is a political world and you don't always get everything you want".

But Trump says the order is an important one.

President Trump signed an executive order early Thursday that would allow religious institutions to expand their participation in American politics. And it asks the attorney general to issue guidance on federal religious liberty protections.

"Woefully inadequate", wrote Ryan Anderson of the conservative Heritage Foundation and a prominent commentator on religious liberty issues.

Trump's order was enough to rattle many on the Left.

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Marty Lederman, a Georgetown University law professor who analyzed the order's potential effect, estimated that it would be zilch. "WE NEED SOME STATUTES, WE NEED SOME LAWSTODAY TO PROTECT THE FIRSTAMENDMENT" Bob Vander Plaats the President of The Family Leader in Urbandale - saysPresident Trump signing thisexecutive order is a step in theright direction.

The most significant portion of the order would direct the Internal Revenue Service to "exercise maximum enforcement discretion" in enforcing the Johnson amendment, which restricts religious groups from endorsing political candidates without risking their tax-exempt status.

The order also promises "regulatory relief" for groups with religious objections to the preventive services requirement in the Affordable Care Act, according to a White House official.

Critics said the first point was essentially boilerplate rhetoric extolling religious freedom.

GJELTEN: To civil rights groups, that draft order would essentially have given organizations a free license to discriminate against LGBT individuals and raised constitutional issues by appearing to favor some religious beliefs over others.

Under what's known as the Johnson Amendment, 501 (c)(3) nonprofit groups, including churches, can not endorse political candidates.

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The American Civil Liberties Union said it would not sue over a measure that is largely symbolic and "merely provide a faux sop to religious conservatives".

House Republicans took a step closer to repealing and replacing Obamacare on Thursday when they narrowly passed the healthcare bill by 217-213.

The same is true for the language regarding the Johnson Amendment.

But the order itself, while calling on all agencies to protect religious liberty, instructs the Department of Treasury to enforce the law exactly as it is written.

But plenty of other people are unhappy with Trump's executive order, including many religious leaders and free speech advocates. "The abuses were all over", Trump said.

"We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore", Trump proclaimed, which were marking the National Day of Prayer.

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.

In reality, the IRS has only investigated houses of worship for political speech a handful of times. "To me the separation of church and state is fundamental to our nation's identity and it concerns me".

In a February survey of evangelical leaders conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents churches from about 40 denominations, 89 percent said pastors should not endorse political candidates from the pulpit. "Especially with majorities in both houses, it should be a big incentive for them to act", he said. "I have heard no stories of that happening". The policy allows a wide range of advocacy on political issues, but in the case of houses of worship, it bars electioneering and outright political endorsements from the pulpit. "And I would be wary of any preacher that does".

The ceremony in question was for the signing of a new executive order on "religious liberty," which is code for "special privileges for conservative Christians".

As Laycock said, this all "may lead to good things for believers down the road, but it does nothing immediately".

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