Alongside Catholic leaders, President Trump signs executive order on religious liberty, health care

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017, before signing an executive order aimed at easing an IRS rule limiting political activity for churches. From second from left are, Cardinal Donald Wuerl is the Archbishop of Washington, Pastor Jack Graham, Paula White, senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla. and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that instructs the Internal Revenue Service not to enforce a rule that bars churches from engaging in partisan politics and addresses concerns from some Catholic organizations about rules in the Affordable Care Act regarding contraception coverage.

Before the signing ceremony at the White House rose garden, Mr. Trump was scheduled to meet in the Oval Office with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C. They were also at the signing ceremony, along with other Catholic leaders, including Joe Cella, head of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and an early supporter of Mr. Trump, and members of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The meeting and signing ceremony marked the National Day of Prayer.

Mr. Trump offered remarks during the ceremony, thanking religious leaders for joining him in the Rose Garden.

“It is a beautiful thing to see these three faith leaders from three very different faith traditions come together and lift up our nation in prayer,” Mr. Trump said. “Not only are we a nation of faith, we are a nation of tolerance.”

Mr. Trump said his executive order was meant to “defend the freedom of religion and speech in America.”

“No Americans should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith,” he said.

Mr. Trump said his executive order was meant to “defend the freedom of religion and speech in America.”

The president said he was directing the Justice Department “to develop new rules to ensure these religious protections are afforded to all Americans,” noting dozens of lawsuits brought against the Obama administration by various religious entities. He specifically called out “the attacks against the Little Sisters of the Poor,” whom he described as “incredible nuns who care for the sick, the elderly and the forgotten.”

He invited members of the religious order to join him at the podium. “I want you to know that your long ordeal will soon be over,” he said.

“With this executive order we are ending attacks on your religious liberty,” he said.

The White House said the executive order addresses concern from some Catholic organizations over certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act that they say compel them to violate their religious beliefs.

For years, the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Catholic groups have battled the federal government over a provision of the health care law that requires employers to provide insurance plans that cover contraception.

“With this executive order we are ending attacks on your religious liberty,” he said.

In May 2016, the Supreme Court sent combined cases against the contraceptive mandate back to the lower courts, which cleared the slate from their previous court rulings when five appeals courts had ruled in favor of the contraceptive mandate and one ruled against it.

The Supreme Court justices, at the time, expressed hope that both sides might be able to work out a compromise, which has not happened.

But on Thursday, the head of the religious order thanked the president.

“Nearly one year ago today the Supreme Court protected our ability to serve the elderly poor while remaining true to our faith,” Mother Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, said in a statement released by Becket, the law firm representing the Little Sisters. “Today we are grateful for the President’s order and look forward to the agencies giving us an exemption so that we can continue caring for the elderly poor and dying as if they were Christ himself without the fear of government punishment.”

The exact content of the executive orders remains a mystery. A Becket spokesperson told America after the signing ceremony that the organization had not yet received the final version of the orders.

Richard Garnett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who follows religious liberty cases closely, said it appears doubtful that the executive orders will change much, at least in terms of the law.

“Americans who embrace our constitutional tradition of respecting religious liberty and the role of religious believers in public life will welcome, naturally, the Executive Order's declaration that the Administration is committed to protecting religious liberty,” Mr. Garnett wrote in an email to America. “In terms of specifics, however, the Order does very little and does not address a number of pressing and important questions.”

“And while it is a good thing—and long overdue—that the Administration apparently intends to craft a more reasonable and inclusive religious exemption from the contraception-coverage mandate, such regulatory relief was already probably on its way, as a result of the Supreme Court's decisions,” he continued.

Mr. Trump’s executive order also directs the I.R.S. not to investigate churches and other houses of worship that endorse candidates or engage in partisan political activity, which under current rules puts in jeopardy their tax-exempt status.

“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. We will never, ever stand for religious discrimination,” Mr. Trump said. “This financial threat against the faith community is over.”

Since 1954, only one church has lost its tax-exempt status under the Johnson Amendment, The New York Times reported.

“With respect to the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, it is already the case that the relevant agencies and officials are highly deferential to churches and religious leaders, especially when it comes to what's said in the context of sermons and homilies,” Mr. Garnett said.

The ceremony included three prayers, including one from Cardinal Wuerl. “Grant us to persevere in works of your mercy, conduct ourselves always in the way of salvation always free to walk in your light,” he said, touching on the theme of religious freedom. “We ask you now on this National Day of Prayer, bless us, bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.” He also prayed for the Trump administration, asking God that it have “respect for virtue and morality.”

Later in the ceremony, in a somewhat awkward juxtaposition, Cardinal Wuerl stood next to Mr. Trump as the president announced optimism that the House of Representatives would pass a new healthcare bill later today. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed opposition to current proposals that could strip millions of Americans of health insurance.

Mr. Trump campaigned on overturning the rule known as the Johnson Amendment, a promise endorsed by several high-profile evangelical leaders. Catholic leaders have not issued a strong statement either way.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regularly reminds Catholic parishes, dioceses and nonprofits that they are barred from endorsing candidates or engaging in overt political activity, including earlier this month, when it published the 44-page document, “Political Activity and Lobbying Guidelines for Catholic Organizations.”

While the document is driven primarily by concerns about the I.R.S., canon law forbids priests from holding public office, a rule dating back to a time when a Catholic priest served as a U.S. representative from Massachusetts. Some canon lawyers interpret church law to be even broader, preventing clergy from engaging in politics altogether.

Meanwhile, some legal scholars say they are unsure if the executive order will survive court challenges.

Earlier this year, The Nation reported on a leaked draft of a proposed religious liberty executive order that was far more sweeping, which would have allowed individuals and businesses to cite religious objections as reason not to serve L.G.B.T. people. Thursday’s executive order is far less reaching, leading to disappointment from some religious liberty advocates.

Some legal scholars say they are unsure if the executive order will survive court challenges.

“Grateful for Executive Order's affirmation of the need to protect religious freedom. Much, much more needed, especially from Congress,” Russell Moore, head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a tweet on Thursday.

But the L.G.B.T.-rights group GLAD said it remains concerned about the scope of the executive order.

“We are far too familiar with attempts to use ‘religious liberty’ to justify circumventing nondiscrimination protections,” the group tweeted Thursday. “Trump's order today promises to broaden church political power, and allow further restrictions on access to contraceptive care. Be vigilant.”

“We strongly encourage the president to see his campaign promise through to completion and to ensure that all Americans—no matter where they live or what their occupation is—enjoy the freedom to peacefully live and work consistent with their convictions without fear of government punishment,” Gregory Baylor, a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement released Wednesday night.

Last night, Mr. Trump dined with several high-profile evangelical leaders in the White House. The president also announced that his first foreign trip would include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and “then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome.” Mr. Trump is expected to meet Pope Francis on May 24.

Material from the Catholic News Service was used in this report. This article has been updated.

CORRECTION, May 4, 2 p.m.: The original version of this story stated that President Trump signed two executive orders. He signed one, addressing two different areas of law related to religious liberty. 

Beth Cioffoletti
3 weeks 2 days ago

Awful. Prayer used as a political prop. Makes me slightly nauseous.

Beth Cioffoletti
3 weeks 1 day ago

As much as I remember, Tim, they weren't "praying".

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 1 day ago

I guess you might think it only a prayer if you don't agree with it. Here is MLK Jr. in his most famous speech:

"and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Now - that's a prayer!

Here is another prayer/dream of MLK's that is now seen as intolerant of identity politics:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Beth Cioffoletti
3 weeks ago

What about this one ... “A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war- ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This way of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” - MLK

I guarantee you, politicians wanted nothing to do with MLK and his prayer. Nor did any of the mainstream religious leaders of the time. Even today, most Americans do not understand the vision of MLK.

Thomas Merton was one of the few writers who recognized the spiritual significance of MLK: “… Martin Luther King – who is no fanatic at all – is perhaps one of the few really great Christians in America … “(“Turning Toward the World”, June 1, 1963, p. 325)

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks ago

I agree with you that MLK is misunderstood today by most Americans - he was the greatest proponent of a color-blind legal system, which is the opposite of racial identity politics like BLM. At the time, the Lutheran pastor, later Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus (Founder of the First Things journal), sided with MLK, and marched with him.

Kenneth Michaels
3 weeks 2 days ago

It's definitely time to rethink staying in the Catholic Church. If this is our leadership in the church, we're on the wrong side.

Barry Fitzpatrick
3 weeks 2 days ago

I wonder what Cardinal Wuerl's intended message might have been by assuming such a prominent place in this ceremony. I don't have the same wonder about his fellow cardinal from Texas, but I have always been impressed by Wuerl's ability to see all the nuances of an action or a statement and his ability to assess the consequences of both. Not sure this was a good thing for him to do given the general tenor of this administration and the president. The president may be able to exaggerate the religious freedom issue (no country on earth enjoys more) for political effect, but Wuerl should know better than to align himself with such fraudulence. Sorry to see him so prominently in the picture.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 2 days ago

Beth , Kenneth, and Barry
I am mystified by your comments
If you are reading AMERICA and commenting on its articles you are already engaging in the mixing religion and politics which you object to. See the first subheading in AMERICA which you can click on--its labeled " Politics and Society"!
Not a big difference if the discussion were done here or in a church.

AMERICA runs articles headlined and in content decrying the changes in OBama Care quoting Bishops, various Nuns and Jesuits.....exactly what anyone would describe in fairness as "mixing politics and religious opinion".

Father Martin pens an article about the United Airlines kerfuffle attacking the morality of Capitalism etc, etc. .....a mixing of religion and economics. Numerous reader comments followed stating Capitalism is inconsistent with Catholic Social Justice teachings.....I think that qualifies as mixing politics and religion. This very Article we are commenting on was obtained in part from "The Catholic News Service"...is that just an oxymoron or does it describe news of interest because it affects Catholics and catholic teaching ?

In as much as the pages of AMERICA are replete with readers pointing out that 96% or more of Catholics ignore the Church's teaching on contraception,etc etc, I doubt very much the effective influence of Monsignor X will have upon mounting a pulpit to back or condemn a candidate.

All this order does is prevent some IRS official from deciding he doesn't like what was said in your church...
You can just leave if you don't like the political bent in the sermon , but without this change some official from the IRS might be coming to revoke the tax status of the church and fine the priest! I might add that if that happened they could go back and revoke you tax deduction for contributions. A few years ago a church in Texas received an IRS subpoena for all the sermons given in the prior year to determine if it was engaged in political statements. A court stopped that! This executive order saves the expense of having to go to court in the first place

Beth Cioffoletti
3 weeks 2 days ago

Stuart,
There is a big difference between being involved with the problems of the world, meeting its basic needs, and pursuing efforts for peace, and using "prayer" and religious clerics as a prop for advancing a particular political agenda. One is spiritual; the other is scandal. This thing that Trump signed promotes the latter. We have to be able to distinguish between the two and call out scandal when it happens.

(P.S. Where were the Muslims at this "prayer" ceremony?)

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 2 days ago

Beth
Perhaps the Muslim cleric declined to be associated with what you view as scandal!
I believe the Senate and House sessions are each predceeded by an invocation by a cleric....Scandal?
I believe that the US Inaugurations have had both invocation and benediction by Catholic clerics.....Scandal?
The political agenda you are decrying was sought by those clerics who were present and by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
You seem to identify "your scandals"based on your own politics ....which is exactly what you are objecting to!
Finally I remind you that..."meeting the problems of the world, meeting its basic needs,and pursuing efforts for peace..." are the business of the political class. So if you personally agree with the result, then a cleric's participation is "spiritual".....if you don't approve the result , the cleric's participation is "Scandal"?

Beth Cioffoletti
3 weeks 2 days ago

In my view, yes, scandal to all of these.
I do not like to see "prayer" invoked at any public assembly that represents a multicultural pluralistic society.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 2 days ago

Beth
The order signed today instructs the government to stay out of the Churches. It doesn't say the Church must/should be involved with politics.
If you wish the Church to also stay out of politics I am all for it!....express your dissatisfaction with the Pastor, withhold your contributions, etc.
But be consistent: don't exhort the Church to bring pressure to bear to get Social Justice goals accomplished by the government!

Beth Cioffoletti
3 weeks 1 day ago

Religion informs ones activity and decisions in political affairs.

When the political party uses religion to further it's agenda, and religious leaders endorse that on the public stage, religion has lost its inherent (and superior) power and truth.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks ago

Beth
See your above comment to Tim Leary on Norte Dame President Jenkins "on stage with President Obama"....He commented that Obama was using religion and you excused it by saying they "aren't praying"
Yet immeadiately above (referencing Trump) you state in total contradiction......"When a political party uses religion to further its agenda and religious leaders endorse that ON THE PUBLIC STAGE, religion has lost its inherent (and superior) power and truth"
I think your secular politics and not any coherent logic are controlling your argument.

James MacGregor
3 weeks 1 day ago

They were laughing thinking about the new freedom they have to attack our system.

Dave McDonald
3 weeks 2 days ago

I certainly do not expect perfection from our church leaders. History has shown our flaws both clearly and repeatedly. However, standing in support of Donald J. Trump is a very bad choice. I think it projects an image to the world of a breathtaking lack of discernment and judgement.

Lisa Weber
3 weeks 2 days ago

Allowing churches to openly endorse particular political candidates will not do the churches any good. Serving God and serving Mammon is a zero-sum game. To the degree that a church serves Mammon by participating in politics, it serves God less by that same degree. We have been told that we cannot serve both God and Mammon, and we are lying to ourselves if we ignore that teaching.

I am ashamed that Catholic leaders would cozy up to this morally bankrupt president. They destroy their own credibility by appearing with him - and no excuse is good enough to justify it.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 2 days ago

Lisa
You pillory mixing Service of God and Mammon, as you see it...yet you have no trouble using a religious phrase to end your observation.
"......Cozy up to this morally bankrupt president" and accusing the Catholic Leaders of moral guilt by association.

Memo to the Social Justice Warriors who always find a government solution is necessary : that form of Social Justice is only achieved through through politics and you are going to have get your hands in the political dirt. ....you may be morally bankrupt as a result!

James MacGregor
3 weeks 1 day ago

This can now work in other ways. We can now tolerate the kind of political rhetoric that comes out of some mosques.

Vincent Gaglione
3 weeks 1 day ago

So, Trump hands to the nation’s Catholics what the Little Sisters of the Poor and the USA Bishops wanted most of all, the right to reject in any form whatsoever the addition of contraceptive protection to the health care policies provided through Catholic institutions. Except it isn’t accomplished as yet, because the order states that the government “shall consider issuing amended regulations.” A smiling Cardinal Wuerl stood prominently at Trump’s side on the same day that the Republicans in the House of Representatives repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act with measures that a majority of the nation’s doctors, hospitals, and insurers agree will significantly increase the chances of life threatening policies for those on Medicaid, Medicare, and in jobs where employers want to relieve themselves of the burdens of providing health care packages to employees.

May I suggest that the “Catholics in the pews” response to this will be further disenchantment with Catholic leadership who seemingly do not share their congregants’ common concerns of daily living?

In addition, this attempt to give religious leaders political power in the pulpit will backfire in ways unimaginable right now. The New York Times reported: “A broad swath of religious leaders representing 99 religious organizations sent a letter to members of Congress last month urging them to preserve the Johnson Amendment. The signers included Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Unitarians, Quakers, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Hindus.” I do hope that some Catholic leaders signed the petition or we shall be giving life once again to the old canard that the Pope wants to take over the country, the last thing on earth that I or any thinking Catholic would want (maybe with the exception of this Pope Francis).

Vince Killoran
3 weeks 1 day ago

For those who cheer this move, I'd love to know of examples of how this kind of arrangement has worked, successfully, in diverse, secular nations elsewhere.

This will damage the Catholic Church in the U.S. and the civic sphere. Now be prepared for clergy, imam, rabbi, et al. to wade into partisan elections. There will be plenty of backlash.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 1 day ago

Vince
The Johnson Amendment dates from 1954, courtesy of Lyndon who got it passed to help silence his opponent's supporters in his Senate race.
So up to 1954 the United States' own experience provides THE perfect example of a secular, diverse state which operated successfully without the Johnson Amendment.
While I was relatively young pre 1954, I have no recollection of any priest talking politics at a Sunday Mass of otherwise.
If they were to do so now,I think you will find it ended quickly by the diminished proceeds in the collection basket since I have no reason to believe the 50/50 split in the populations political views is any different in our Church pews.

Vince Killoran
3 weeks 1 day ago

"The perfect example"?! There was still (Protestant) prayer in public schools at the time! In Paul Blanchard's anti-Catholic 1949 best seller, AMERICAN FREEDOM AND CATHOLIC POWER, the author charged that the church's hierarchy had an undue influence on legislation, education and medical practice. In any case, the old USA is a much different, e.g., diverse, place than it was over sixty years ago.

Your second point undercuts what Trump has done. You seem to argue that clerics won't weight in anyways since they fear diminished weekly collections! Then why bother? Besides being a questionable generalization on what motivates parish priests, most parishes don't have a 50/50 split in political views.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks ago

Vince
The Johnson Amendment had nothing to do with ending prayer in public school. Similarly the Amendment had nothing to do with ending anti catholic books ,essays, etc as any reflection on the Kennedy election will demonstrate and that was six years after the passage of the Johnson Amendment.
Catholic Clerics won't mount the pulpit to weigh in now for the same reason they didn't weigh in before the Amendment....offending parishioners on non religious matters. On the other hand taking political positions has been an historic part of the black church experience whom this Amendment was originally intended to intimidate. If you doubt that tradition just Google the Pew Foundation report respecting a survey of what churches engaged in political discussion as part of the last election.

Respecting your comment that most catholic parishoners don't have a political split that mirrors the national split ...please google/check the analysis of the catholic vote for the last election .
If the Parish you live in doesn't reflect the national political split I think you probably live in New York or California..

Vince Killoran
3 weeks ago

I understand the national 50/50 split. My point is that individual Catholic parishes don't have that split, e.g,, my parish has lots of "liberals" but one of my sisters is in a parish loaded with conservatives. (Neither of us live on the coasts.) In any case, you don't explain why the Trump order is good if all priests will do is check the political winds of their flock.

Re. Johnson Amendment: I was responding to your "good old days" scenario. They really weren't. As for JFK's election, it's true that there was some anti-Catholicism at work. But it came at the tail end of a long and ignoble history.. It doesn't exist when you study subsequent presidential primaries and general elections. Conservative Catholics have started to stir this up, beginning with Kerry's '04 run for office.

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks ago

Vince
You asked for examples of a non Johnson Amendment secular country and I gave it to you...the United States pre 1954. I certainly never characterized pre 1954 as "the good old days" ..... That is a straw man of your own construction!
I have no idea what your reference is to conservative Catholics and John Kerry . Gore got 50% of the Catholic vote; Kerry got 47% of the Catholic vote; and OBama got 54%........you find some trend there attributable to conservative Catholics?
As for the split between liberals and conservatives in your parish or your sisters I have no idea how you reach that conclusion without a poll. I relied on polling results to give you the national average for Catholics when actually voting and know of no reason that should not be applied as a generality to the probable split in parishes vs your personal "estimate".

The Cardinal and the Little Sisters of the poor in the Rose Garden signing were not there because the Executive Order let them preach politics....They were there because the EO also nullified the interpretation of and the enforcement of the Obama Care regulations requiring that religious organizations directly or indirectly pay for insurance coverage for contraception!
I might add in passing that Cardinal Dolan's meeting with President Obama concerning Obama Care and it's then potential to require contraceptives would probably have violated the Johnson Amendment which prohibits "lobbying"! You recall that Cardinal Dolan accused the President of breaking his word on this issue.

My comments on the EO/preaching issue has simply been the clergy won't change not because they won't have the IRS to contend with....they won't change because they know and have always known they would alienate parishioners.

Vince Killoran
3 weeks ago

Okay, let me respond and then step back from this exchange since I think we are arguing past each other.

1. There is no Pew or other scholarly data at the micro, i.e., parish, level on political identities, except that they parse ethnicity & class (e.g., Hispanic v. non-Hispanic Catholics; income) so this indicates that there are differences among parishes. Are you arguing that the 50/50 split (actually, it's not 50/50 exactly) exists in, say, both an Oakland County, MI parish (white, upper-income, predominantly GOP county) as well as a Baltimore Catholic parish with a sizable Hispanic and African American community? That seems fanciful. (See, for example, http://www.pewforum.org/2008/03/27/a-portrait-of-american-catholics-on-…)

2. At this point, I'm not sure what your pre v. post Johnson Amendment point is, especially since you seem to be suggesting that parish priest won't change their political engagement in case they alienate parishioners. Does this mean that Trumps move is inconsequential? I would argue that it's dangerous.

3. The Kerry '04 point was that the old canard about Catholics manipulating American politics faded until conservative Catholic bishops and priests starting threatening parishioners about receiving communion etc.

4. The Catholic bishops in this country have made a mess of their case for religious liberty. At best Cardinal Donald Wuerl's presence at the even was a ham handed effort to applaud the contraceptive aspect while the main event was the EO directed to the IRS.

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 1 day ago

While an executive order is a poor substitute for strengthening legal protection (the type we had before secular judges/politicians decided we didn't), what a difference in attitude from the previous administration, which only protected non-Christian religions, and went out of its way to bully Christian conservatives of any stripe. Recall that the Obama administration lost in unanimous rulings at the Supreme Court.

Unlike many European nations, the American founders saw the wisdom of a strong protection of religious freedom (meaning: protecting the church's from interference from the (initially) federal government so that religion could flourish, and not protecting the government from religious people). Secular liberals have been fighting this part of the first amendment ever since.

All the commentators who object to religious involvement in politics are only displaying their partisan chops. Did they ever complain when Obama spoke at the prayer breakfast, or an African-American Church, or had the IRS go after conservative Christian organizations. Did they object to the "nuns on the bus" or Nancy Pelosi being a reader in her church (that is a real scandal). Further back, did they object to Fr. Drinan getting elected into the House of Representatives, of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. campaigns?

Derrick Weiller
3 weeks 1 day ago

Religious fervor, unleashed, is civic poison.
It must ever be constrained by force of law.

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 1 day ago

Is that a quote from Kim Jong-un or Enver Halil Hoxha?

Philip Cyscon
3 weeks ago

The Johnson Amendment never prevented charitable and tax exempt organizations from entering into discourse in the political sphere. It stopped 501(c)(3) organizations from directly endorsing or opposing candidates for office.

President Trump has proven himself to have a transactional mindset so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if he expects the churches "freed" by the elimination of the Johnson Amendment to back his future candidacy. Anyone who doesn't follow through on his transactions is threatened with retribution, but I hope that our bishops conference will stay away from all hint of partisan electioneering even in the face of this possibility. I don't have any confidence in individual bishops and pastors avoiding endorsements and condemnations, but I know that I won't allow electioneering in any parish I serve (as has been true for the first 33 years of my priesthood).

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks ago

Philip - that is true paranoia. The Catholic Bishops would never endorse Trump. It seems to me that there should be more freedom across the board (including any liberal or secular organization) for free political speech, including endorsements, and religious organizations should have as much freedom as anyone else. Recall that the IRS was already found to target conservative organizations: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/irs-admits-targeting-co…

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks ago

Philip
The Johnson Amendment also prohibited " lobbying" by a 501c-3......the definition of "lobbying" seems to be in the ear of listener, in this case the IRS. It also prohibits using funds in support of candidates AND lobbying. I believe that there is no issue unless facilities or monies of the Church are involved.
Thus it is one thing to confront broad social justice issues but it cannot be in the context of a piece of legislation or proposed legislation.
As an additional caution/liberation for your fears that Trump may be looking for a quid pro quo, the Johnson Amendment still exists as law and can only be repealed by Congress. The EO is just instruction to the IRS not to go looking for or enforcing by litigation the issues covered. The EO was meant to counter regulatory interpretations by the IRS such as the HHS Sibelius regulatory interpretation that Church/ religious run organizations were not exempt from the insurance .
contraceptive requirements of Obamacare even though the Church proper was. In short the 501c-3 Social Justice Programs
administered by religious were not exempt. You may recall the Government regulatory position that a Church requiring as a precondition of employment its employees be coreligionists was an equal rights violation. It took a Court to toss that regulatiory interpretation out. The Trump EO is an attempt to cut off such regulatory interpretations of the Johnson Amendment.

Charles Erlinger
2 weeks 5 days ago

One of the most interesting sentences in this report is the last, a quote from the President:
"The president also announced that his first foreign trip would include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and 'then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome.'”

One of the ways that we are being conditioned to accept the President's sometimes startling utterances and behaviors is by being told that "he is a transactional deal maker and that's the way he operates." But transactions are two-party actions. One party promises one thing, in this case to ease restrictions in some way, and the other party promises another thing, in this case...what? Why was he left with the conviction that cardinals were "MY" cardinals? Do any of us ordinary lifelong Catholics rate high enough to get to call the cardinals "MY" cardinals? Not me, I'm pretty sure. I've never even been close enough to one to call out "your excellency" or whatever I was taught in elementary school in the event I ever got close enough to call out to one.

Derrick Weiller
2 weeks 5 days ago

A terrific observation, Charles.

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