Trump's 'religious liberty' executive order has implications for Catholic hospitals, women's healthcare

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. The President began the order by re-emphasizing the Federal government's commitment to religious liberty.

A spokesperson for the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa told KCCI, "President Trump's executive order is risky and ill-advised for the government's interest and for houses of worship".

One local church WAAY 31 spoke with Saturday held a vigil regarding the order - and State Line Seventh-day Adventist church Pastor Isaac Olatunji said he sees both sides in the matter. Trump's executive order instructs the Internal Revenue Service to "not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization" that endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit, which is now outlawed by a provision typically referred to as the Johnson Amendment.

"Not only for our community but for our nation, no pastor has to fear speaking about issues, whatever the bible has to say about it, they can speak freely without any fear of being drug into court", Cowart said. Rabbi David Saperstein, who served as President Obama's ambassador for International Religious Freedom, told a congressional committee today that clergy making political endorsements would further polarize religious communities.

"This action will jeopardize women's health, equity and economic security by instructing the Department of Health and Human Services to effectively roll back a critical provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires coverage of women's preventive health benefits", Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement. "President Trump's executive order reportedly aims to gut the Johnson Amendment and clear the way for the Religious Right to weaponize their churches for partisan battle".

That is the loosely enforced amendment that has prevented religious leaders from talking politics since the 1950's. "That's illegal now for them, as a condition of their tax-exempt status".

Selectively enforcing law has drawn scrutiny in past administrations, and before the order was signed Wednesday, some experts predicted it could present another legal challenge to Trump's administration.

But on Thursday, the group rescinded its threat, saying the order had no teeth.

In addition to the two policy changes, the order will also provide a blanket statement that "it is the policy of the administration to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty". It just directs the IRS and the health care system to exercise "maximum enforcement discretion" in levying penalties.

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