Politics ESSENTIAL WASHINGTON

Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington

Trump signs order inviting more politics at church, but no 'religious liberty' clause involving LGBTQ debate

President Trump signed an executive order aimed at protecting politically active churches from losing their tax-free status.

The order, timed for Thursday's National Day of Prayer, does not include the broad religious liberty provisions leaked in February that could have allowed businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation and other moral objections.

The new order contains a more vague blanket statement that declares the administration is committed "to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty."

The order is also designed to allow religious groups to avoid a mandate to provide contraception coverage under President Obama's healthcare law,  the Affordable Care Act, potentially expanding an exemption that had been carved out in the courts. A senior administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday night would not describe how that provision would work, saying only that unspecified "regulatory relief" would come later.

The official emphasized that the order would not change existing law. The most significant portion of the order would direct the Internal Revenue Service to "exercise maximum enforcement discretion" in enforcing the Johnson amendment, which restricts religious groups from endorsing political candidates without risking their tax-exempt status.

Trump met with evangelical leaders Wednesday night and with Catholic leaders Thursday morning before signing the order at a public ecumenical ceremony in the Rose Garden.

“You're now in a position where you can say what you want to say...," Trump said before signing the order, along with a proclamation. “We are giving our churches their voices back.”

Evangelicals supported Trump strongly during his election and had been pressuring the administration to go further in giving businesses discretion to assert morality clauses without running afoul of anti-discrimination laws.

Latest updates

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
60°