The Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that advocates for the separation of church and state, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Madison federal court against President Donald Trump and IRS Commissioner Josh Koskinen, the same day the executive order was signed.
But it does not provide what many religious groups were hoping for and what many secular groups feared: There is no exemption from anti-discrimination laws for those who object to LGBT issues on moral or religious grounds.
His words drew some skepticism and criticism in light of his ban on Muslims traveling into the United States and his insistence on building a wall along the border with Mexico.
He said he was "directing the Department of Justice to develop new rules to ensure these religious protections are afforded to all Americans".
"Once again, the LGBTQ community is moved to celebrate the idea that we have dodged a bullet", said GLSEN's executive director, Dr. Eliza Byard in a statement.
ACLU, however, did not believe that any such step had been taken by the president. While experts say the order is mostly meaningless, it directs the Treasury Department to avoid sanctioning religious groups for political speech.
"After careful review of the order's text we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process", the statement said.
Gregory Baylor, senior counsel for the pro-faith group Alliance Defending Freedom, was among the Christian conservatives to criticize the order, calling it "disappointingly vague" and questioning whether the IRS would follow through with Trump's directive.
The executive order will also protect non-profit and religious organizations from the ObamaCare mandate that forced them to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices at no cost to the employees. "I think they oughta have a voice but I'm just totally against getting the political arena in the church arena", said Cooper.
Churches and other tax-exempt organisations are restricted from endorsing or explicitly opposing political candidates under the 1954 Johnson Amendment, but the executive order made it clear that those activities would still not be permitted.
Pastor Cowart says nothing will change at his church since he's already been openly speaking every Sunday, but he says the president's executive order is a symbolic step in the direction he's been fighting for.
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