How Does President Trump’s Executive Order Affect Church Speech?

President Trump is attempting to do what the 501(c)(3) law restricts, give churches their voice back.   It is encouraging to see a president strongly support churches and religious rights, however the president’s executive order (EO) is limited.  If your church or ministry is formed as a 501(c)(3) then it has speech restrictions.   How does the EO affect church speech?  The short answer is not much.

First, a EO does not create, amend, or repeal federal law.    Second, all 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from supporting or opposing political candidates and attempting to influence legislation by federal law.   The only way to change federal law is by agreement of both the US House and US Senate; that has not happened. Third, If a EO gives preferential treatment to churches and religious 501(c)(3) organizations while applying a more restrictive measure to secular 501(c)(3) organizations, then there is likely discrimination.  Fourth, within hours of signing the first lawsuit to challenge the EO was filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), a secular 501(c)(3) organization.  

We desire real change in our country and a return to our Christian heritage, but the impact of this EO should not be exaggerated as a new opportunity for 501(c)(3) churches and religious organizations to speak out.  Often an opponent of religious exemptions, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) choose not to file suit because the president’s EO does not do much.  ACLU Director Anthony Romero stated, “Today’s executive order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernable policy outcome”.  

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