Thursday, May 4, 2017
CHURCH AND STATE
According to a USA news release; the latest Trump Presidential executive order Thursday is designed to "protect and vigorously promote religious liberty" and "alleviate the burden" of a law designed to prohibit religious leaders from speaking out about politics, according to senior administration officials.
The order aims to make it easier for employers with religious objections not to include contraception coverage in workers' health care plans, although it would be up to federal agencies to determine how that would happen.
It would also ease IRS enforcement of the so-called Johnson Amendment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_Amendment), which says tax-exempt religious organizations cannot participate in political activity. While only Congress can formally do away with the law, this will pave the way for churches and other religious leaders to speak about politics and endorse candidates without worrying about losing their tax-exempt status.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign had said earlier in the day they plan to immediately file legal challenges against the order, if it is as broad as a draft that leaked earlier this year. Before details about the order were released, they expressed concerns that Trump's actions would encourage employers to deny birth control services in their health plans, and could enable discrimination against gays and religious minorities.
“It would create an unprecedented license to discriminate with taxpayers’ funds, undermine women’s health care and elevate one narrow set of religious beliefs over all others,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, of the previous leaked draft.