On May 4, President Trump announced that he would sign an executive order directing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to relax their enforcement of laws regarding church involvement in political speech and activities.
While criticized for this move, Trump’s order does more than provide political funding opportunities – and many church leaders have praised the executive order.
Trump Protects the Rights of Churches and the Separation of State
It has always been the object of the United States to separate church from state. However, the state tends to meddle in private organizations and church affairs. Therefore, Trump vowed not to allow people of religious faith to deal with bullying, persecution, and issues with engaging in politics.
The announcement by Trump came on National Day of Prayer. Trump further stated that the United States would not tolerate any religious discrimination during his administration.
After all, the United States Constitution do not allow religious discrimination.
What the Order Does for Churches
The order declares that Trumps administration will promote religious liberties. It does not offer broad exceptions nor does it deny services.
An earlier version of the order released would have given churches legal protections and sweeping protections for anyone claiming a religious exemption. However, these have changed.
The order signed on May 4, 2017 features modest changes. Now, the IRS uses their discretion when enforcing the Johnson Amendment, reports CNN. Religious organizations can also escape punishment if they were to fund a political campaign. Religious leaders have stated in the past that limitations kept them from their freedoms to speak for what they believe in.
Under Trump’s administration, he vows that free speech should not end at the steps of a church. Furthermore, churches deserve to have their voices heard.
The notorious 1954 Johnson amendment states any tax-exempt group can lose their exemption status if they endorse or oppose a candidate based on political office and nominations. The IRS investigated all suspected violators, but only one organization in history has ever lost their status.
Trump Fulfilling Yet Another Promise to the American People
During Trump’s campaign, he is optimistic of fulfilling many promises and fixing huge issues from past administrations. Now he is keeping a promise by giving conservatives and religious organizations more leeway.
Also, the executive order relieves religious organizations of the requirement to provide their employees with birth control through ObamaCare.
Many Republicans in the past have called for a repeal of the Johnson amendment. It was a key platform in the 2016 GOP party and one that Trump embraced too.
Representative Jody Hice said during an oversight reform committee that the Johnson Amendment has had an effect of fear and intimidation by the IRS to charitable organizations and that it must be stopped.
Hice already introduced legislation that allows nonprofits and churches to engage in activities for politics, says The Hill.
Many intend to repeal the amendment during their tax reform legislation. Eliminating the damaging effects of this bill may give churches and organizations the freedom to still speak about what they believe in, without worrying about penalties from the IRS.
Democrats, naturally, disagree and want to preserve the Johnson amendment. Some religious groups also agree about preservation, because they feel that churches already engage in political activities and increasing the use of their “dark money” would create a burden in American politics.
Some feel Trump’s executive order will have little effect, especially since the IRS has only punished one church in the 60 years since the amendment has taken effect.