May 3, 2017 at 10:52 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
White House: ‘Religious freedom’ EO will affect churches, not LGBT people
USSR, Trump era, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An expected “religious freedom” order from President Trump will address the tax-exemption status of churches as opposed to undermining LGBT rights, according to multiple media reports of a White House background briefing.

On the call Wednesday night, a White House official said the executive order would work to fulfill Trump’s promise to repeal Johnson Amendment — a 1954 that prohibits 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, such as churches — from making political endorsements, according to Buzzfeed. Repealing the Johnson Amendment was among the campaign promises of Trump, who said he’d “destroy” the measure.

But amid widespread fear among LGBT rights supporters the executive order would allow discrimination against LGBT people, the White House official reportedly said the directive won’t pertain to those issues.

Jennifer Jacobs, a White House reporter with Bloomberg, posted on Twitter a one-page memo outlining the executive order, which will be timed with the celebration of the National Day of Prayer at the White House.

The one-pager indicates the order would also highlight the Trump administration’s support for religious freedom and provide “regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby.”

Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was tight-lipped under questioning from the Washington Blade on the nature of the “religious freedom” executive order and whether it would enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

The White House’s characterization of the executive order stands in contrast to a draft “religious freedom” executive order that has circulated among federal advocacy groups and would enable discrimination on the basis of religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and transgender identity. The proposed measure would gut former President Obama’s 2014 executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination against federal contractors, which the White House said Trump planned to keep intact.

The White House hasn’t yet made public the text of the executive order. After speaking out against the “religious freedom” measure at a rally on Wednesday, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Twitter called on Trump to make the draft public to verify it won’t discriminate against LGBT people.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Ellen Sturtz

    Just because it does not call out the LGBTQ community specifically, it is still another declaration of the administration’s intention to use “moral conscience” and “religious liberty” to discriminate against our community and others. We must stand up against this EO’s declaration, since you might not think they are coming for us this time, breathing a sigh of relief, but don’t be fooled. Remember Hobby Lobby, when most of us sat it out.

    • Chris Lamparello

      Wrong. This order in no way permits discrimination against LGBT people. Period.

      • uhhuhh

        Why are you so defensive? Trump has already screwed over trans folks repeatedly as well as stuck an anti-gay bigot on the Supreme Court for 40 years.

        Ellen says, “since you might not think they are coming for us this time, breath a sigh of relief, but don’t be fooled.”

        RIGHT!

      • lnm3921

        It already tries to give religious groups an unfair advantage by trying to circumvent the Johnson Act which puts GLBT groups on a level playing field with religious organizations dedicated to opposing our legal rights and freedoms!

        We can’t get tax exemptions for fighting for our rights but all they have to do is whine religious freedom and free speech to get one to lobby against us! That in itself is discrimination!

        Stop trying to sell us on Trump being good for LGBT! Religious freedom bills aren’t a priority now because he hasn’t been focused on it yet! But like he said, he’s about keeping his promises to his supporters which is promoting polices that will harm GLBT!

        What is he doing about gays in Chechnya if he cares so much about us?! He hasn’t even bothered to mention it and don’t talk to me about Nikki Haley. Obama made it a priority to defend us directly not regulate it to underlings while not even acknowledging there is a problem!

  • Harshan

    Wait until someone realizes that this EO works in both directions. If a church can function as a political advocacy group, what stops a political advocacy group from acting as a church? The barrier has fallen! Bear in mind that not all religious groups use religious terms (Jehovah’s Witnesses have Kingdom Halls, Quakers go to Meetings, some “evangelicals” go to Christian Centers, and so forth.)

    There is precedent.

    Long ago, dianetics practitioners found themselves in trouble with the FDA because their e-meters (galvanometers) did not qualify as medical devices. So they transformed themselves into the Scientology Church. They can now use e-meters all they like without regulatory oversight.

    For example, HRC could reincorporate as the Human Rights Church, but only use the acronym externally. They can continue as before, but donations would be deductible.

    This EO is more likely to destroy churches, not empower them.

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