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Churches weigh in on Trump's executive order on religion

Executive order targets Johnson Amendment

Churches weigh in on Trump's...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - President Donald Trump Thursday signed an executive order targeting the "Johnson Amendment" of the U.S Tax Code.

The rule says religious institutions could be stripped of their tax exempt status if their clergy endorse political candidates.

The order weakens enforcement of the IRS rule.

"We will never ever stand for religious discrimination,” Trump said.

Mark Clements, a pastor with Living Word Christian Church in La Crosse, said Trump's signing of the order is about the First Amendment.

"It seems like one class of citizens has been segregated out in America and told you cannot exercise freedom of speech,” Clements said. “Every other citizen may. Even at their workplace, even on their job, even on their performance of their duties. But a pastor, at his workplace, at his job, in the performance of his abilities, is limited."

That said, he said the executive order's impact will be limited at his church. 

"My primary objective when I stand at the pulpit is not to deal with social issues or political agendas at all,” Clements said.

The Rev. Jim Arends, bishop for the La Crosse Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church or ELCA, said churches in his synod do talk social issues, but nothing about political candidates.

"I can still say we have hungry people, and we need to take care of hunger, I just can't say I know this person is the best person to fight hunger, vote for them,” Arends said.

He said his church won't change, but he wants everyone to be open to the message they hear at church.

"Someone in the pews will say, you're insulting my president, or oh, you're a Democrat. Well I don't know a Republican or Democrat that wants children to be hungry,” Arends said. “We can open that conversation, and hopefully that opens the conversation to how we can best do it from both sides and the middle of the political spectrum."

The order also promises regulatory relief for groups that do not wish to provide contraception services citing religious leaders.
 


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