President Donald Trump on Thursday made good on a promise to allow religious organizations greater freedom in political speech.
“Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation,” Trump said in the Rose Garden at a National Day of Prayer event with religious leaders and White House staff. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.”
The president declared his administration would be “leading by example” on religious liberty in the United States.
“We are giving our churches their voices back,” Trump said.
Religious leaders prayed in the garden just before Trump signed the executive order.
Two nuns from the Little Sisters of the Poor, the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit seeking relief from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, were among those on stage for the signing, according to a press pool report.
Trump promised during the campaign to dismantle the Johnson Amendment, which bans tax-exempt organizations like churches from political speech and activities. His executive order relaxes IRS enforcement of that ban. While the executive order signals a promise kept, fully repealing the Johnson amendment would require Congressional action.
The executive order, called “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” also gives “regulatory relief” to companies that object to an Obamacare mandate for contraception in health care. That builds on the 2014 Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, which found that the Affordable Care Act mandate that certain corporations must provide female employees with no-cost access to contraception was a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.