By Ken Camp / The Baptist Standard
This is an abbreviated version of the article. The full story is available on the Baptist Standard website.
President Donald Trump marked the National Day of Prayer by signing an executive order supporters called a “first step” to promote religious freedom but church-state separationists criticized as an attempt to turn congregations into partisan political action committees.
In a May 4 Rose Garden ceremony, Trump signed an executive order instructing the Department of the Treasury and “all executive departments and agencies” not to impose any penalty or deny the tax-exempt status of any religious nonprofit organization or house of worship that engages in political speech.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, praised Trump’s action in a tweet, saying: “Grateful for executive order’s affirmation of the need to protect religious freedom. Much, much more needed, especially from Congress.”
In contrast, Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, voiced concern the executive order could open the door to partisan politicking in churches.
“This order appears to be largely a symbolic act, voicing concern for religious liberty but offering nothing to advance it. Worse, it is further evidence that President Trump wants churches to be vehicles for political campaigns,” Tyler said.
“Americans think changing the tax law to encourage churches to endorse and oppose political candidates with tax-deductible contributions is a terrible idea. But some politicians and a few interest groups looking to solidify their political power continue to push it to further their agenda. The vast majority of congregants and clergy from all religious groups oppose candidate endorsements in their houses of worship.”