Trump signs executive order on religious liberty

In addition, the order calls for unspecified "regulatory relief" for religious objectors to the Obama administration mandate that required contraception services as part of health plans.

The order released Thursday instead included a blanket statement that "it shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law's robust protections for religious freedom".

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. Rather, it directs the IRS to evaluate political expression by religious nonprofits using the same criteria it employs for judging expression by nonreligious tax-exempt groups.

SIEGEL: This executive order is controversial.

WEBVTT SUPER "We are giving ourchurches their voices back".

Rev. Starkovich said in his line of work there will be times that political and social issues are brought into the pulpit, but it never violates the Johnson Amendment.

The White House has indicated that this measure is just the beginning of a long road to dismantle the Johnson Amendment.

"If you noticed the people at the press conference - they were all most of the agency heads who will be affected by this executive order". A draft executive order that supported that principle, circulated three months ago, delighted conservatives but horrified civil rights groups.

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That is the loosely enforced amendment that has prevented religious leaders from talking politics since the 1950's.

"The charitable sector, particularly houses of worship, should not become another cog in a political machine or another loophole in campaign finance laws", the group wrote.

Briefing reporters ahead of the signing on Wednesday evening, a senior official downplayed the possibility that churches would soon act as political groups advocating for particular candidates.

Allowing churches and non-profits to endorse who they please, without fear of losing their non-profit status. "So we're not changing what's legal, we're not changing what's illegal, just enforcement discretion".

Trump asked for applause for several Little Sisters before he signed the order, assuring them that "your long ordeal will soon be over".

But on Thursday, the group rescinded its threat, saying the order had no teeth.

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that could pave the way for religious institutions to have more power to claim exemptions from health-care law mandates like no co-pay birth control.

It is rare that the IRS actually goes after a religious organization for breaking the Johnson Amendment.

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