President Trump’s “Free Speech and Religious Liberty” Executive Order is a Lose-Lose for Everyone

On May 4th, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) on “religious freedom” that appears to give the Internal Revenue Service wider latitude in enforcing laws that prohibit churches and religious institutions from taking part in partisan politics. This law, known as the “Johnson Amendment,” prohibits all 501(c)(3) organizations – including churches, charitable nonprofits, and foundations – from engaging in partisan political activities. Because the language of yesterday’s Executive Order is vague and applies only to religious nonprofits, it may have limited practical effect, even though it received extensive media coverage.

Since the EO did not change the federal law, nonprofits are still prohibited from endorsing candidates, making campaign contributions or coordinating activities with political campaigns. However, the EO may provide renewed momentum to pending legislation in Congress (S. 264, H.R. 781, and H.R. 172) that seeks to eliminate or substantially weaken the Johnson Amendment. The Alliance, 132 Connecticut foundations, nonprofits, faith-based groups and for-profits, and over 4,500 community nonprofits across America strongly oppose efforts to eliminate nonprofit nonpartisanship. We will continue to vigorously fight efforts to eliminate or weaken the Johnson Amendment.

Resources:
· National Council of Nonprofits Statement (05.04.17)
· Newsweek: What Is The Johnson Amendment? Trump’s Religious-Liberty Executive Order Undermines Church/State Law (05.04.17)
· USA Today: Trump’s Religious Freedom Order Doesn’t Change Law On Political Activity (05.04.17)