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WASHINGTON: The National Council of Churches expresses opposition to the regrettable Executive Order entitled, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” signed today by President Trump.  This executive order does not promote free speech or religious liberty.

Churches do not face or experience any discrimination because of the Johnson Amendment, the section of the Internal Revenue Code which states that nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations, including churches, cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

Churches should and do speak truth to power. But, churches should not be intervening in political campaigns, endorsing or opposing candidates, or forming political parties. That would be dangerous both for the integrity of houses of worship and our democracy.

Despite this new executive order, we urge churches and clergy not to fall prey to the false notion they are victims of discrimination because they receive tax-exempt status in return for staying out of political campaigns. We affirm the role of the churches in proclaiming the power of God through Jesus Christ, preaching with a prophetic voice that both names God as the source of all salvation and holds the state accountable in the service of the common good.