Trump Readies ‘Religious Liberty’ Order that Could Reenergize Georgia Effort
May 4, 2017
(Atlanta Journal Constitution) - President Donald Trump plans to sign a long-awaited executive order on ‘religious liberty’ Thursday that could have a ripple effect in Georgia, where conservatives have tried for years to pass similar legislation.
The action would nudge the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service to be more flexible in enforcing a 1954 law that essentially bans churches from endorsing candidates or engaging in other political activity if they want to keep their tax-exempt status.
Trump railed against the policy, more commonly known as the Johnson Amendment, on the campaign trail, arguing that it unconstitutionally restricts free speech. He vowed to “totally destroy” it in February, but the authority to do so ultimately lies with Congress.
“Politicians and unelected bureaucrats shouldn’t have the power to shut up their critics just because they’re church leaders or charities,” a senior White House official said Wednesday evening. Trump “thinks that’s intolerant and un-American, and if there’s anything the First Amendment is designed to protect, it’s that.”