13:26 GMT +316 October 2019
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    US President Donald Trump speaks to staffers setting up for the Commander in Chief's trophy presentation in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, May 2, 2017.

    President Trump to Sign Controversial 'Executive Order on Religious Liberty'

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    It is expected that President Trump will sign an executive order on religious liberty in the United States, a move that is drawing fierce criticism from civil rights groups.

    It is reported that the executive order will declare that, "it is the policy of the administration to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty," according to a summary released by the White House.

    The President invited Republican leaders to the White House on Thursday, May 4, for what is expected to be the signing of the controversial executive order on religious liberty. The signing coincides with the national day of prayer, and White House staffers are said to be planning a celebration with faith leaders after the signing.

    A draft order was leaked in February, which included protections to employers who deny employee health coverage for abortion and contraception. The draft also declared to protect the tax-exempt status of religious organizations that "believes, speaks or acts in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman."

    Broadly, the executive order will also loosen stringent rules that are in place that block tax-exempt churches from funding a favored political party and involving itself with politics. The order will bestow "regulatory relief" for the religious who object to the Obama administration's mandate that required contraception services as part of health care plans, administration officials have said.

    The news will be of concern to civil and LGBTQ rights campaigners as, if signed, it could see a controversial measure put in place that allows groups and businesses to cite their religious faith as a reason to refuse goods and services to people. Although one senior administration official has reportedly confirmed that the language of the order is being revised, meaning it is not yet certain what the final product will look like.

    However, the concerns of some minority groups are not without precedent. There have been wide reports of businesses refusing to lend their services to same-sex couples who were planning to get married. Many of the business owners were alleged to have taken their positions on religious grounds.

    Many Democrats have lambasted the bill as tantamount to discrimination. 

    As presidential candidate and after taking the Oval Office, Trump proclaimed that he would "totally destroy" the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment that was proposed by then senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who later served as president from 1963. In short, it is a prohibition on church and other tax-exempt organizations from supporting political candidates.

    Some have made the allegation that the religious liberty executive order is simply anti-LGBTQ policy masquerading as liberty. 1,300 faith leaders have come out in condemnation of the order, signing an open letter expressing "deep concern" over the order.

    The letter concludes that, "as people of deep faith committed to a country that supports robust religious expression, and in the spirit of equality and justice, we urge to return to the true meaning of religious freedom.  We must never allow this precious freedom to be used to discriminate against broad swaths of our nation, including LGBTQ people, woman and children in foster care."     

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    Tags:
    Johnson Amendment, Religious Liberty Bill, religious beliefs, LGBTQ, executive order, church, religion, bill, marriage, equality, Trump administration, Republican Party, White House, ACLU, US Congress, Donald Trump, United States
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