President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that enables churches to support political candidates without risking their tax-exempt status.
The order, which also protects non-profits from being forced to include abortion services in their insurance policies, was signed at a National Day of Prayer event.
“This order would provide regulatory relief” to organizations like Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor; organizations that have been “persecuted by ObamaCare’s preventive services mandate,” said a White House senior official.
The order directs the IRS to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion to alleviate the burden to a 1954 tax provision that prohibits churches from directly endorsing or opposing a political candidate.”
The provision – known as the “Johnson Amendment – can only be repealed by Congress. What President Trump’s order does is direct the IRS not to investigate cases of political activism by churches and other tax-exempt organizations.
The directive may be subject to legal challenge and does not necessarily extend past Trump’s presidency.
Faith & Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed says the order “lifts a cloud of fear over people of faith and ensures they will no longer be subjected to litigation, harassment, and persecution simply for expressing their religious beliefs” and calls it a “giant step in the right direction in protecting the First Amendment rights of Christians and other Americans of conscience and faith.”
“Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation,” said Trump. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore.”
The Johnson Amendment, named for President Lyndon B. Johnson, applies to all tax-exempt organizations. According to congressional aides, the repeal of the amendment is being written into the tax legislation currently being developed by House lawmakers.
Author’s Note: I’m not sure it’s a great idea for a church to support a political candidate, but it’s only fair they be given the option. Up until now, even organizations like Planned Parenthood were able to support candidates, as well as unions and a great variety of non-profits with less to lose than churches.