I don’t do politics on my blogs.
I do pay attention to issues affecting non-profits.
So when the president issues an Executive Order addressing religious freedom, it is worth discussing even though it is a politically loaded EO.
On May 4, the president issued an EO which reportedly pulls back on the ban against churches getting involved in political campaigns.
In a one sentence overstatement, under current law 501(c)(3) exempt organizations may not involve themselves in political campaigns and may only get involved in very limited ways in legislative efforts. Ok, I’ll add a second sentence – That means churches and other exempt organizations may not endorse or favor a political candidate but may exert some effort addressing matters before a legislative body.
Based only on initial reports, the EO appears to contain several major items. First, telling the IRS to use maximum discretion in applying the rules on the political ban. Second, telling the Attorney General to develop guidelines for federal agencies on how they apply their rules in terms of religious freedom. Third, asking federal agencies to make certain changes in health care requirements regarding contraceptive coverage.
My initial reaction is to recall that the ban, referred to as the Johnson amendment, is embedded in federal law, passed by Congress. As a conceptual issue, keep in mind that an Executive Order cannot override a passed law. Thus, I am confused on the impact of the EO. Also, asking a federal agency to change their rules is not the same as actually changing their rules.
I urge you to do your own research to assess how the EO may affect your charity.
Here are some helpful articles amongst the initial coverage which can provide you some background:
- 5/4/17 – The Hill – Trump eases ban on political activity by churches – Essentially headline level coverage of the comments at the signing.
- 5/4/17 – Wall Street Journal – Trump Signs Religious Freedoms Executive Order – Coverage of the photo-op and initial reaction from a variety of activist groups across the political spectrum.
- 5/4/17 – Wall Street Journal – Executive Order on Religious Freedom: What It Does (and Doesn’t Do) – High-level survey of what is and is not in the EO. Also, summary of provisions that were dropped from the draft which was leaked back in February.
- 5/4/17 – Wall Street Journal – Religious Liberty Reincarnation – Editorial points out there is less in the EO than it appears.
Please do your own research. I’m confident there will be several terabytes of pixels spent on analysis in the next few months.