Secular Coalition: Trump’s Executive Order is the Epitome of Religious Privilege

Washington, DC– The Secular Coalition for America has released a statement today condemning President Trump’s executive order on “religious liberty.”

“The executive order signed by President Trump today is nothing more than a decree of religious privilege,” said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “This executive order is a twisted parody of the religious liberty it claims to protect and an unprecedented attack on the separation of church and state by a sitting President.”

The order contains two primary components: The first instructs the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to cease enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofits from endorsing or opposing political candidates. The second provides “regulatory relief” to businesses with religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate.

“The president’s executive order bestows churches with unprecedented political power, allowing them to engage in politics while remaining exempt from taxes and financial transparency laws,” said Decker. “Contrary to the President’s misleading remarks, churches are already free to endorse political candidates but not while maintaining a nonprofit status. Tax exemption is a privilege, not a right, and the Johnson Amendment holds all nonprofits, including houses of worship, accountable to the parishioners and taxpayers who fill their coffers.”

A national poll released in March found that a resounding majority of Americans (72%) support the Johnson Amendment, including a majority of Republicans (67%), Democrats (76%), and Trump voters (66%). A poll released in February found an overwhelming number of evangelical pastors (89%) opposed the idea of clergy endorsing politicians from the pulpit.

“Regarding the contraception mandate, the President’s executive order rebrands religious imposition as ‘regulatory relief’ and sends a troubling message to federal agencies tasked with enforcing the law,” said Decker. “The existing accommodations for religious employers are already above and beyond reasonable expectation. It is deeply troubling that the White House would elevate religious employers further above the law by relaxing the enforcement of this already generous accommodation. With the stroke of his pen, President Trump has proclaimed that a woman’s access to affordable contraception depends on the religious beliefs of her employer.”

A 2015 poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a majority of Americans (57%) believe privately owned corporations should be required to provide contraception coverage at no cost to their employees.

“The President’s actions are clearly a reward to leaders of the religious right, who helped to hand him a victory in November,” said Decker. “The Secular Coalition for America will not stand idly by while the White House attempts to write this unconstitutional agenda into law.”

CONTACT: Casey Brescia, Communications Associate, [email protected], (845)-380-6201

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The Secular Coalition for America is the nation’s premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 19 voting member organizations.

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