President Donald Trump signed an executive order meant to allow churches and other religious organizations to become more active politically.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday, May 4th, meant to allow churches and other religious organizations to become more active politically. The order directs the IRS not to take “adverse action” against churches and other tax-exempt religious organizations participating in political activity that stops short of an endorsement of a candidate for office. This executive order targets the Johnson Amendment of 1954, which says that any tax-exempt group can lose its exemption if it is found to have endorsed or actively opposed a candidate for political office. Trump vowed early in his presidential tenure to get rid of the measure, though completely striking the amendment would require an act of Congress.
Addressing an audience of religious leaders on Thursday, President Trump said, “America has a rich tradition of social change beginning in our pews and our pulpits, we must never infringe on the noble tradition of change from the church and progress from the pew.”1
According to Lawrence Noble, General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, the executive order did not ease the current restrictions on political activity by religious organizations. It allows the IRS to restrict the activity it currently considers political, but prohibits the IRS from expanding the restrictions to cover activity not covered before the executive order.
Evangelical Christian leader Russell Moore said the order is “more symbolic than substantive.” “If this is the end of the story, I’m really disappointed, but I think we ought to hold out the hope that this is just the beginning and that there are more steps to be made.” Indeed, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which had threatened the Trump administration with a lawsuit, rescinded their threat on Thursday, saying the order had no teeth.
Yes, this is not the executive order many evangelicals had been praying for. Gone are the exemptions for religious groups faced with accommodating LGBT antidiscrimination regulations that conflict with their faith convictions.2While the White House’s broad vision to “protect and vigorously promote religious liberty” holds promise for people of faith, it lacks some of the specific conscience safeguards that many conservative Christians wanted to see. “Religious conservatives will take comfort from the generally positive attitude toward their religious liberty claims. But in its operative effects, this nowhere goes out on a limb for them,” said Thomas Berg, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. “The issues concerning LGBT/religious-liberty conflicts remain….”
“More important than whether pastors can speak politics is whether everyone can live their convictions in [the] public square,” tweeted John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.”
Currently, what many religious conservatives are asking for is liberty of conscience and free speech. However, Bible prophecy reveals that church and state will eventually unite in America through legislative actions. The end result will be persecution and trampling of the liberty of conscience.
“The dignitaries of church and state will unite to bribe, persuade, or compel all classes to honor the Sunday. The lack of divine authority will be supplied by oppressive enactments. Political corruption is destroying love of justice and regard for truth; and even in free America, rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected. In the soon-coming conflict we shall see exemplified the prophet’s words: ‘The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ Revelation 12:17.3
Indeed, we are living in solemn times. We are drawing closer to the second coming of Christ. The apostle Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome are so relevant to us today:
“And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:11–14.
Oh, may we hunger and thirst for righteousness, may we yearn to be transformed into the image of God, may we make the best use of our time and resources, may we lay up treasures in heaven, where moth will not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
3 White, Ellen G., The Great Controversy, 1911, p. 592.