DOJ Defends Religious-Freedom Executive Order — But Religious Groups Say It’s Not Enough

Some Americans believe President Donald Trump’s religious-freedom executive order doesn’t go far enough to protect Christians and others who oppose homosexual “marriage,” footing the bill for drugs that could induce abortions, and other politically incorrect beliefs.

For example, Obamacare requires employers to include drugs that could kill the unborn in employee health coverage. Certain religious organizations are allowed exemptions, but Christian retailer Hobby Lobby and the secular March for Life had to sue. Hobby Lobby and March for Life were granted exemptions.

Christians want to be protected from religious-freedom violations and retaliatory government actions. They had high hopes when President Trump entered office but were disappointed with the “Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” which reads in part:

Respecting Religious and Political Speech. All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech. In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury. As used in this section, the term “adverse action” means the imposition of any tax or tax penalty; the delay or denial of tax-exempt status; the disallowance of tax deductions for contributions made to entities exempted from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of title 26, United States Code; or any other action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit, or benefit.

Sec. 3. Conscience Protections with Respect to Preventive-Care Mandate. The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate promulgated under section 300gg-13(a)(4) of title 42, United States Code.

The Hill reported that Department of Justice lawyers filed a brief in a case brought by an atheist group challenging the executive order.

Justice Department lawyers defending the executive order argue it does not favor religious groups, but merely instructs the government to not take actions against religious groups that it would not take against similar organizations.

“None of the remarks made by the President suggest that the Executive Order grants an exemption to religious organizations while denying the same benefit to secular organizations,” briefs filed by Justice state.

The language was a disappointment to opponents of the Johnson Amendment, who wanted the Justice Department to declare the law unconstitutional.

The Johnson amendment and the Obamacare mandate are still in place. The president can issue regulations against both, but the better route would be for Congress to repeal Obamacare and the Johnson amendment.

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