Indianapolis News and Headlines


How President Trump's national religious freedom executive order is different than the Ind. RFRA law

Posted at 2:56 PM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-04 18:02:23-04

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump, surrounded by faith leaders, signed an executive order aimed at religious freedom Thursday morning.

It was a similar scene to the one in 2015, when then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, surrounded by local religious leaders. The 2015 law prompted immediate backlash and criticism from across the state.

Trump’s executive order, officially called “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” is not a national extension of the 2015 Indiana law.

A leaked early version of the executive order showed it could’ve weakened protections to LGBT people, exempted religious organizations from providing contraceptive and expanded the definition of a religious organization to include "closely held for-profit corporations, operated for a religious purpose, even if its purpose is not exclusively religious."

According to the Associated Press, the new executive order has disappointed some of Trump's supporters who were hoping for a more sweeping measure.

The Indiana law was billed by supporters as a safeguard against businesses being forced to provide services they find objectionable on religious grounds. But opponents said it gave businesses a "license to discriminate."

Indiana’s law was more than just a PR issue. RFRA may have cost the state as much as $60 million, according to a study by Visit Indy. 

The RFRA “fix” made it clear that a business can't use the law to refuse to provide services or goods to the public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.

Thursday’s executive order focuses on the Johnson Amendment.

The Johnson Amendment is a 63-year-old amendment to the tax code named after then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. The amendment prohibits nonprofits (like churches) from directly or indirectly endorsing or donating to political candidates.

Both on the campaign trail and as president, Trump has repeatedly talked about the Johnson Amendment. In a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, he said he wanted to “destroy” it.

Late Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it will not sue over Trump's executive order.