Earlier today Donald Trump signed an executive order with religious liberty as the subject matter. However, the order did next to nothing of substance. Everything Trump and his supporters want to change must be done legislatively or via rule making.
Reaction to the order has been much more interesting and in some cases substantial than the order itself. First, I start with comments from Rick Cohen, Director of Communications with the National Council of Nonprofits. After I saw a press release from the group earlier in the day, I asked Rick why the NCN was troubled by the order, which by itself, is of little consequence. In an email, he said:
The EO is only one part of the equation. It removes the bright line that all 501(c)(3) organizations have been able to rely on for sixty years: if you are tax-exempt, you can talk about the issues of the day, but you don’t get to endorse or oppose candidates. Now that bright line is fuzzy. Combine that with pending efforts in Congress to remove the Johnson Amendment altogether through pending standalone bills or incorporating repeal into a broader tax reform package and one of the hallmarks of the nonprofit, religious, and philanthropic sector is under grave threat.
The NCN has taken the position that nonprofits should not become partisan organizations. The position is stated on their website:
The National Council of Nonprofits has long held that the public’s overall trust in the sector would diminish and thus limit the effectiveness of the nonprofit community if individual 501(c)(3) organizations came to be regarded as Democratic charities or Republican charities instead of the nonpartisan problem solvers that they are.
Much reaction is inaccurate. For instance:
BREAKING: Donald Trump just signed an executive order that turns religious freedom into a #LicensetoDiscriminate
— Americans United (@americansunited) May 4, 2017
In fact, the anti-LGBT provisions were apparently removed.
The executive order to abolish the Johnson Amendment is signed into law this morning!!!!!! President Trump has… https://t.co/TvbNGJjJP6
— leah lowrey (@LeahLowrey) May 4, 2017
Somebody needs a civics lesson.
David French has it about right.
What's worse than actually useless? Trump's EO on religious liberty. My take here: https://t.co/BpDbwqd1Xh
— David French (@DavidAFrench) May 4, 2017