Donald Trump 'planning new executive order on religious freedom'

Administration said to be preparing the move for Thursday's National Day of Prayer

Jon Sharman
Wednesday 03 May 2017 11:16 BST
President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence
President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence (REUTERS)

Donald Trump is expected to sign a revised version of a controversial executive order on religious freedoms that could enshrine specific conservative Christian beliefs in US executive policy, it has been claimed.

In February the leaked draft of an executive order appeared to show the White House was considering an official declaration that premarital sex was morally wrong, marriage should be between a man and a woman and that life begins at conception.

It would have protected the tax-exempt status of organisations that acted on those beliefs, for example, by denying a service, even if they were working for the US government.

The order reportedly went unsigned after the President's daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, intervened. It was seen as opening the way for religious discrimination against the LGBT community and prospective foster parents.

According to Politico, a new version is being finalised ahead of the National Day of Prayer on Thursday following a push by Vice President Mike Pence, a committed Christian. According to the website's source, its language is "very, very strong" and similar to the leaked February order's.

That document claimed to "respect religious freedom" and, if signed, would have shielded federally-funded organisations from punitive government action if they espoused and acted on certain conservative religious beliefs in the course of their contract.

In full the principles were: "The belief that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life".

It also sought to protect the tax-exempt status of organisations that propounded those beliefs, as well as to block "adverse action" against groups that discriminated, on religious grounds, in the provision of adoption and fostering services.

Politico reported that two senior administration officials confirmed the plan was to sign the new order on Thursday.

The White House has been contacted for comment.

News of the original leak came as Mr Trump told religious leaders he would "get rid of and totally destroy" a 60-year-old rule that blocks tax-exempt religious groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

The so-called Johnson amendment was introduced by then-Senator Lyndon B Johnson in 1954. It threatens churches and other religious institutions with the loss of their tax-exempt status should they overstep the mark.

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