Washington Blade photo by Michael Key

White House: 'Religious Freedom' EO Will affect Churches, Not LGBT People

BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE

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. This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
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