"The open season on Christians and other people of faith is coming to a close in America and we look forward to assisting the Trump administration in fully restoring America's First Freedom", Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement.
"For too long the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs", Trump said, later telling those gathered for the event that "you're now in a position to say what you want to say". "The executive order allows the IRS to restrict the activity it now considers political, but prohibits the IRS from expanding the restrictions to cover activity not covered before the executive order". NPR's Tom Gjelten reports that liberals and conservatives alike are not happy with it.
Illustration: "Religious Freedom" photograph by Mr. "What President Trump did today was merely provide a faux sop to religious conservatives and kick the can down the road on religious exemptions on reproductive health care services".
Vander Plaats added that Trump's executive order is a step in the right direction.
But religious leaders like the Rev. David Sickelka, senior minister at Urbandale United Church of Christ, think it could only create more divide and discrimination.
Critics were bracing for the worst after a leaked version of the bill from January appeared to allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees, among other sweeping provisions.
The order also directs the Department of Justice to ensure religious protections are afforded to individuals and groups, such as Little Sisters of the Poor...
It aims to eradicate the Johnson Amendment, which is a piece of legislation that bans tax-exempt religious organisations from directly or indirectly participating, or intervening in a political campaign. It takes stun at the Johnson Amendment, which provides enforcement mechanisms against religious organizations that get involved in politics. It does not restrict clergy from speaking on issues of public or political importance.
The ACLU is focused on attempts to undermine requirements that religious employers cover contraceptive services in their employee healthcare policies, but it doesn't seem concerned about the rights of atheists, agnostics and non-theists.
DAVID SAPERSTEIN: What is a pastor to if a congregant who's a major donor says, I'll give you the gift this year but only if you endorse such a candidate?
"No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors", Trump said.
The American Civil Liberties Union announced late Thursday it had abandoned its initial plan to file a lawsuit to prevent the order from taking effect, calling the order a photo opportunity with no real policy outcome.