By Miriam Raftery
May 4, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order today that would order the IRS to take a hands-off approach to churches that endorse political candidates. It also orders federal agencies to exempt some religious groups from a requirement to provide birth control to employees.
But a third provision has been scrapped, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation and other moral grounds.
The measure is opposed by the American Civil Liberties union, women’s rights and gay rights groups, and organizations favoring strong church/state separation. The ACLU has threatened a lawsuit, tweeting, “If President Trump signs an order that would allow religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate, we will sue. “
The measure takes aim at the Johnson Amendment in federal tax code, which allows the IRs to investigate churches and take away their tax exempt status if they support or oppose any political candidate. The law cannot be repealed without Congress, so Trump ordered the IRS to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious leaders from speaking about politics and candidates from the pulpit.”
The second part of the executive order provides regulatory relief for religious objector’s of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) provisions requiring employers to provide birth control to employees and staff, a matter previously addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hobby lobby case.
Gay rights groups had been protesting in Washington over the third provision, since removed, which would have allowed businesses to discrminiate based on sexual orientation, such as in a high profile case of a baker who refused to sell a wedding cake for a gay marraige.
The White House has announced that the President will sign the revised measure today, which is National Prayer Day.