President Trump signs controversial 'Religious Liberty' executive order

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"Today my administration is leading by example as we take historic steps to protect religious liberty in the United States of America", the president said Thursday as he signed the order. The rule has rarely been enforced. Religious leaders have long complained that the provision restricts their free speech. Whether by executive order or through backroom deals, it's clear that the Trump administration and congressional leadership are using religion as a wedge to further divide the country and permit discrimination.

Trump added, "That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution".

The amendment, named for then-Sen.

The IRS does not make public its investigations of such cases, but only one church is known to have lost its tax-exempt status as a result of the prohibition. It also provides "regulatory relief" for organizations that object on religious grounds to a provision in Obamacare that mandates employers provide certain health services, including coverage for contraception.

GJELTEN: Trump's actual order, however, only directed the Justice Department to, quote, "issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law". Others said it was merely a starting point with more to be done.

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The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist group Equality Florida had scheduled a conference call with reporters Thursday to discuss the order but opted to call it off once their attorneys read the contents of it.

Gathering religious leaders in the Rose Garden, he announced that he would be signing a document that would restore their voice. Those requirements include covering birth control and the move could apply to religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, which have moral objections to paying for contraception.

Several religious leaders who supported Trump praised the order as a first step in what would be a lengthy, hard process of reworking a web of regulations that many religious conservatives consider unfair.

"If this possible executive order is similar to February's draft, it would do nothing except give a national license to discriminate, and endanger LGBTQ people and their families", GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement prior to the signing.

Metcalf-Armstrong said although the order stops short allowing groups and businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community- the overall vagueness of the executive order could be unsafe. Romero said: "After careful review of the order's text we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process".