US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will allow churches and other religious organisations to become more active politically, the media reported.
The order, which Trump inked during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, directs the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) not to take “adverse action” against churches and other tax-exempt religious organisations participating in political activity that stops short of an endorsement of a candidate for office, reports CNN.
Churches and other tax-exempt organisations are restricted from endorsing or explicitly opposing political candidates under the 1954 Johnson Amendment, but the executive order made it clear that those activities would still not be permitted.
Instead, the order prevents the IRS from expanding its restrictions on political activity by religious groups.
It also provides “regulatory relief” for organisations that object on religious grounds to a provision in Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act that mandates employers provide certain health services, including coverage for contraception.
After the signing, Trump said the order would prevent religious groups from being singled out for their political views.
“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” CNN quoted Trump as saying marking the National Day of Prayer.
“And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination.”
Briefing reporters ahead of the signing on Wednesday evening, a senior official downplayed the possibility that churches would soon act as political groups advocating for particular candidates.
Religious discrimination is barred by the US Constitution.