Trump limits IRS action over church political activity

The timing of Trump's signing of the executive order purposefully dovetailed with National Prayer Day, and he was surrounded by religious leaders and white house staff in the Rose Garden as he signed.

After President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday allowing religious institutions more freedom in political matters - it's brought some mixed emotion to the Tennessee Valley. The order also allows private employers who object on religious grounds to contraception to deny reproductive health care to their employees.

While an earlier draft of the religious liberty order reportedly would have let federal contractors discriminate against LGBT employees based on faith beliefs, today's version did not include such provisions.

It is not clear if the president is able to direct the IRS to ignore enforcement of the Johnson Act without a bill from Congress lifting the ban. On Friday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an advocacy group for non-theism, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing the order violates the First Amendment by offering preferential treatment to religious nonprofits.

The civil rights group backed off after reading the text of the order, finding it had little actual legal bite.

Reed said he was "thrilled" by the language on the IRS restrictions on partisan political activity.

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

"Today's executive order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome", Romero said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. The 1954 amendment has prohibited tax-exempt charitable organizations such as churches from participating in political campaigns.

"I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and openly without fear of retribution", Trump said at his first National Prayer Breakfast.

"Once again, the LGBTQ community is moved to celebrate the idea that we have dodged a bullet", said GLSEN's executive director, Dr. Eliza Byard in a statement.

The official emphasized that the order would not change existing law.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said that the religious liberty order is the start of a process in reversing the "devastating trend set by the last administration to punish charities, pastors, family owned businesses and honest, hard-working people simply for living according to their faith". "With this executive order, we are ending the attacks on your religious liberty".

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