How Trump's "Religious Liberty" Executive Order Would Affect Real People

by Bronwyn Isaac
Michael Springer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Thursday, during a gathering in the Rose Garden of the White House, Donald Trump signed a "Religious Liberty" executive order that will allow religious organizations more legal freedom in the political arena. More specifically, this move from Trump would potentially allow churches to endorse political candidates. The executive order signed by Trump seeks to ease the provisions of the Johnson Amendment, which was originally introduced as part of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954.

The Johnson Amendment itself prevents all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from officially endorsing political candidates, which means, tax-exempt churches, temples, and religious spaces are not allowed to give political speeches.

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.

"Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation. We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore," Trump told supporters, according to a report from ABC News.

Technically, it would require a Congressional vote to actually repeal the Johnson Amendment itself. Even still, Trump's order might still influence how strictly it's carried out, since the order itself instructs the Treasury Department to not target tax exempt churches who endorse politicians.

Due to the freedom this might give religiously affiliated institutions, there is already reasonable concern about how this order could embolden discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community in particular.

On Feb. 1, the magazine The Nation leaked an earlier draft of Trump's executive order, the original four-page draft would have enforced the right for partisan political action and freedom for, "any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” that claims religious conviction, “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments."

The broad scope of Trump's original draft of the executive order could have potentially allowed ordained ministers to refuse the marriage of same-sex couples, while enabling employers to potentially strike contraceptives from their health care plans if it conflicted with their faith.

A report from The Atlantic shares that while the final version of the order Trump signed today focused on Trump's instructions that the IRS "not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization" that overtly endorses political candidates. There was also a directive in Trump's religious liberty order that would enable employers to withhold contraceptives, the National Review reports that Trump's order says that "federal agencies to exempt some religious organizations from Affordable Care Act requirements that provide employees with health coverage for contraception."

While the final draft did not specifically address gay marriage or issues affecting the LGBTQ community, the content of Trump's original draft, combined with the extension of protection toward employers withholding reproductive health care for employees, proves this order is still a potentially dangerous move toward legalizing discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community.