Annotated: Trump's Executive Order On Religious Liberty

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order aimed at easing an IRS rule limiting political activity for churches Thursday

"President Trump's efforts to promote religious freedom are thinly-veiled efforts to unleash his conservative religious base into the political arena while also using religion to discriminate", ACLU director Anthony Romero said in a statement. Then came the actual order, leaving reactions mixed.

Surrounded by a variety of religious leaders, President Trump signed an executive order calling on the IRS to essentially refrain from going after churches who speak out on political issues. They said the IRS rule protects houses of worship and religious groups from political pressure. The Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson characterized the order as "woefully inadequate", while Princeton professor Robert George said it amounted to a victory for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, senior administration officials with socially liberal views. Neither of those policy changes was directly brought into effect by the order.

"Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation", Trump told supporters gathered in the Rose Garden on Thursday. He emphasized the possibility of future action by individual agencies.

The ACLU looked at Trump's religious liberty executive order and determined that it was fake news.

The IRS does not make public its investigations of such cases, but only one church is known to have lost its tax-exempt status because of political activity. Taking positions on issues is permitted.

Baylor called that "sort of self-evident", rather than the kind of shift in policy his organization is advocating.

Read the full order here. At his first National Prayer Breakfast as president, he said he would "totally destroy" the amendment. The rule has rarely been enforced. The pastor of New Horizon Church doesn't endorse candidates. After losing its tax-exempt status, the church continued operating and still benefited from tax breaks on its property, Reuters reports.

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"We know all too well the attacks against the Little Sisters of the Poor - incredible nuns who care for the sick, the elderly and the forgotten", he said, adding that their "long ordeal will soon be over".

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, derided the Johnson amendment Thursday in a speech before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Evangelical Christian leader Russell Moore said the order is "more symbolic than substantive".

For all the scare quoting that goes on when liberal outlets and pundits discuss conscience rights in the United States, today's order actually has earned its scare quotes. A repeal would require congressional action. Collins that while the focus of his church is spiritual, not political, he encourages members to participate in politics and to vote according to biblical values.

But Trump doesn't have the authority to eliminate the law single-handedly.

The IRS has not been particularly aggressive in enforcing the law. A survey released last fall found that only 20 percent of Protestants and 13 percent of Catholics see political endorsements from the pulpit as appropriate. Black Protestants were most likely to have heard such a message - largely in favor of Hillary Clinton or opposition to Trump. "That's what this executive order is about". "Without health coverage of contraception under [the Affordable Care Act], countless women will lose their basic right to prevent pregnancy and plan when they have children". While houses of worship are exempted from this obligation, some religious schools, hospitals and companies have objected to the mandate. Our constitution clearly already preserves these rights and covers the freedom of religion.

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