Wisconsin-based atheist group sues Trump over church order

While Trump's action on the Johnson Amendment aims to please religious conservatives, some oppose any action that would weaken the policy.

"I'm really anxious about President Trump trying to politicize the whole thing, turning our religious institutions into political organizations", said Representative Ron Kind (D-La Crosse).

Specifically, the executive order protects religious groups from a restriction imposed by the IRS that prohibits tax-exempt organizations, like churches and other religious institutions, from political speech and involvement. Those requirements include covering birth control and the move could apply to religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, which have moral objections to paying for contraception.

In Utah, where a majority of the elected legislators are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in an emailed statement Thursday that the church plans to remain politically neutral.

"We will preach the truths, we will preach the values of our faith, and we will leave it up to the people in the pews to vote according to those values, but to let them make their own decisions about who and what candidates to vote for", said Starkovich.

However, the nonprofit determined that the executive order, in its current state, would not affect the rights of the people. Yet, supporters and critics alike note his executive order actually does little, instead outlining a general philosophy.

Use of church facilities for partisan political purposes is also forbidden. They noted that religious groups are free already to advocate for issues and political causes, if not candidates. Rather, it tells churches (and other nonprofits) that if they seek a tax exemption - which can be worth millions of dollars - they must refrain from a small subset of political speech. "To me the separation of church and state is fundamental to our nation's identity and it concerns me".

He said today's executive order was a "giant step", but it was only the first of many steps in changing the government's attitude toward religion. Like the majority of Utah lawmakers, King is also Mormon.

However, he also said there's a lot of responsibility given to people in any kind of religious authority. "I think that's a problem".

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"I'm not saying we shouldn't be political".

"I think it's a bad idea".

An adjustment to the Internal Revenue Code - which was adjusted in 1986 but continued to include Johnson Amendment - would require an act of Congress, but Trump can influence how it is enforced.

It also instructs the IRS to allow active churches across the U.S. to endorse political candidates.

"It turned out the order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome", the organization tweeted.

As to the challenges the new order is likely to face in the courts, an experienced President Trump has added a section (5) stating: "If any provision of this order, or the application of any provision to any individual or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and the application of its other provisions to any other individuals or circumstances shall not be affected thereby".

Although Trump's order doesn't go as far as some feared, it still is troubling.

"Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government". In April, the BJC spearhead a coalition of 99 faith groups that sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them not to repeal the "Johnson Amendment".

He said he was "thrilled" by the language on the IRS restrictions.

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