Published May 16, 2017
President Trump signed an executive order May 4 intended to promote free speech and religious liberty, particularly that of our nation’s pastors.
But the executive order may not do as much to loosen a gag rule placed on pastors that restricts them in expressing their political persuasions, as some first thought. For one thing, it didn’t nix the Johnson Amendment. The tax code restricting a church from becoming involved in political campaigning still stands.
Rather, President Trump’s mandate clarifies for the Internal Revenue Service his administration’s intention to enforce vigorously the “robust protections for religious freedom” in federal law. Some say the executive order, however, did not go far enough, failing to add protections for faith-based businesses that have established employment practices based on a biblical sexual ethic.
One implication of his order, though, is that IRS shouldn’t take any adverse actions—such as removing tax exempt status—against the churches of pastors who speak out on “moral or political issues from a religious perspective” any more than it would take against a secular non-profit for expressing similar political views. Note what’s absent here: any mention of the word “candidate.”