Donald Trump has signed an executive order allowing religious leaders a more active role in American politics on the National Day of Prayer.
Mr Trump said “faith is deeply embedded in the history of our country”. He also called the US a “nation of tolerance...we will never stand for religious discrimination”.
Vice President Mike Pence said the order reinforces the “importance of prayer” in the US and said Mr Trump has an “unshakeable faith in God and the American people”.
Mr Trump’s rhetoric about not standing for religious discrimination, will jar with some given the fact that Mr Trump took a hard line about letting Muslims into the US during his presidential campaign.
The “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” order is meant to protect the tax-free status of politically active churches.
The Johnson Amendment – a law dating back to the 1950s – prevents religious leaders from endorsing or opposing political candidates without risking their tax-exempt status.
The order directs the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion” when applying the Johnson Amendment.
The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued
The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued
1/9 Trump and the media
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer takes questions during the daily press briefing
2/9 Trump and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Union leaders applaud US President Donald Trump for signing an executive order withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington DC. Mr Trump issued a presidential memorandum in January announcing that the US would withdraw from the trade deal
3/9 Trump and the Mexico wall
A US Border Patrol vehicle sits waiting for illegal immigrants at a fence opening near the US-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas. The number of incoming immigrants has surged ahead of the upcoming Presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, who has pledged to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. A signature campaign promise, Mr Trump outlined his intention to build a border wall on the US-Mexico border days after taking office
4/9 Trump and abortion
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus looks on in the Oval Office of the White House. Mr Trump reinstated a ban on American financial aide being granted to non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling, provide abortion referrals, or advocate for abortion access outside of the United States
5/9 Trump and the Dakota Access pipeline
Opponents of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines hold a rally as they protest US President Donald Trump's executive orders advancing their construction, at Columbus Circle in New York. US President Donald Trump signed executive orders reviving the construction of two controversial oil pipelines, but said the projects would be subject to renegotiation
6/9 Trump and 'Obamacare'
Nancy Pelosi who is the minority leader of the House of Representatives speaks beside House Democrats at an event to protect the Affordable Care Act in Los Angeles, California. US President Donald Trump's effort to make good on his campaign promise to repeal and replace the healthcare law failed when Republicans failed to get enough votes. Mr Trump has promised to revisit the matter
7/9 Donald Trump and 'sanctuary cities'
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January threatening to pull funding for so-called "sanctuary cities" if they do not comply with federal immigration law
8/9 Trump and the travel ban
US President Donald Trump has attempted twice to restrict travel into the United States from several predominantly Muslim countries. The first attempt, in February, was met with swift opposition from protesters who flocked to airports around the country. That travel ban was later blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The second ban was blocked by a federal judge a day before it was scheduled to be implemented in mid-March
SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images
9/9 Trump and climate change
US President Donald Trump sought to dismantle several of his predecessor's actions on climate change in March. His order instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to reevaluate the Clean Power Plan, which would cap power plant emissions
Mr Trump has advocated for repealing the amendment because he – influenced by the devout Christian Mr Pence - feels that it is a “crippling financial punishment” and restricts the freedom of speech of religious institutions.
“Now [you're] in a position to say what you want to say. I know you'll only say good,” Mr Trump said to an audience of religious leaders he gathered in the White House's Rose Garden for the signing.
“Freedom is not a gift from government, it's a gift from God,” Mr Trump said.
Some argue that the order could help make political campaign contributions essentially tax-deductible because of the small number of financial reporting requirements by non-profit religious institutions.
“Our task is not to dictate to others how to live,” he said, adding that he wants to work with “Muslim allies...to combat extremism.”
The signing ceremony included a performance Steven Curtis Chapman, a Christian music singer.
The executive order did not include any provisions regarding the LGBTQ community as had been expected per an early leaked draft of the order.
However two groups, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Center For Reproductive Rights (CPR), have said they will challenge the order.
The order cites the 2014 Supreme Court case involving the company Hobby Lobby. The craft store chain argued that they did not have to provide birth control coverage to female employees because the corporations' owners were opposed to it on religious grounds. It was the first time the court recognised a for-profit company's claim of religious belief.
CPR is challenging the order on grounds that it also includes a provision that says certain private companies are exempt from the Obamacare mandate that ensures women access to “contraception, breastfeeding support, and well-women care; men's health services are not affected,” CPR said in a statement.Reuse content