Trump Gets Sued by Atheists Over Religious Liberty Executive Order; Heralded “Triumph of Fake News.”

by ursulafaw –

Trump’s recently signed Religious Liberty Executive Order is yet one more step along the cobble stoned path towards a gate marked “Erosion Of Church And State.”  How did we get there from an order whose purported use was merely to loosen restrictions on political activity by religious groups? Daily Beast is heralding it as a “triumph of fake news.” Take a look:

But what the order does do is solves two problems that simply do not exist.

First, the order effectively nullifies the 1954 law called the Johnson Amendment, by directing the IRS to not enforce it.  The law forbids all tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, including churches, from engaging in political campaigns, endorse candidates, or collect contributions to a political campaign.

According to the Christian Right’s fake news machine, this common-sense law has muzzled the free speech rights of pastors, who can’t say anything political from the pulpit.  Actually, that’s not true at all.  Pastors can (and do) still talk politics, they just can’t overtly endorse a candidate.  And remember, the law actually applies to all nonprofits, not just churches.  This non-issue is just hysteria-mongering among national Christian Right organizations, designed to gin up outrage – and to allow them, not churches, to endorse political candidates.

Oh and guess what: the IRS hasn’t been enforcing the Johnson Amendment against pastors anyway.  Since 2008, they’ve only audited one — one — pastor for violating the law, and even he wasn’t punished.  And during that time, the “religious liberty” group Alliance Defending Freedom has been promoting “Pulpit Freedom Sundays,” encouraging pastors to openly break the law.  Trump’s order changes nothing.

The second nothing-burger in the order provides “regulatory relief” to organizations “persecuted” by Obamacare.  Here again, the effect is effectively nil.  Churches and religious organizations already have a blanket exemption from the ACA, including its much-hated requirement that insurance plans include contraception coverage.

Believe it or not, the organization the administration name-checked, a tiny monastic order called the Little Sisters of the Poor, have spent years arguing that merely exercising that exemption is a form of persecution.  Their “religious liberty” is supposedly infringed upon by checking a box on a form, saying “No, we won’t provide insurance,” and getting on with their lives.

That’s the “persecution” today’s order addresses. And, needless to say, it hardly matters at all if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, as now once again seems possible.

In sum, today’s executive order isn’t about persecution—it’s about perception.

The perception is that staunch men and women of God are being persecuted. That’s not only untrue, it’s insane and this executive order is unconstitutional because it favors religion over non-religion, not what it claims to do, which is favor all non profits, irregardless of religious content. More from Daily Beast:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit Thursday in federal court against Trump and the Internal Revenue Service, claiming the order is unconstitutional because it makes government favor religion over nonreligion. Although the executive order applies to all nonprofits, FFRF believes it will be selectively enforced so as to only benefit churches and religious organizations.

“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore,” Trump said while announcing the order on Thursday. “And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination, never ever.”

FFRF calls that and the order a “message to Christians, and particularly evangelicals” that the government will no longer bar them from endorsing candidates, donating to campaigns, or otherwise engaging in politics.

“President Trump’s EO creates the appearance of government endorsement of churches and religious organizations and a preference for these religious organizations above similarly situated nonreligious organizations,” the suit reads.

Andrew Seidel, staff attorney at the FFRF, told The Daily Beast the order’s language is vague enough to benefit religious organizations at the expense of non-religious groups. “It’s very poorly worded. Trump and the White House have made it very clear that they intend for this order to ease restrictions on churches, especially on Evangelical churches,” Seidel said.

Don’t forget that Donald Trump is the figurehead that the wingnut powers that be chose when it became apparent that Ted Cruz was not going to get the Republican nomination;  and that Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions and now Neil Gorsuch are the payoff to the Evangelicals and the  payback to the Christian Right, and that payback is still coming.

And also bear in mind, “For conservative Christians, it’s been five minutes to midnight for two centuries now.  There’s always been some lost golden age in America, when everyone prayed and the Christian Nation was at peace.  That’s nonsense, of course: in fact, Christians have always complained that the golden age is lost.  But it’s a powerful narrative, and resonates with longstanding Christian martyr narratives and end-times teachings.  Remember, over three-quarters of U.S. Evangelicals believe the rapture will happen in their lifetimes. And not because things are good.” These are the people who do nothing but look forward to the apocalypse and do their very best to nurse it into being.  The evangelicals are not what you would call “life affirming,” all issues of abortion to the side. The worldview of the right wing Christians is not what one would call cheerful.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos