Trump Signs “Religious Freedom” Executive Order On National Day Of Prayer, Creating Faith-Based Office

The new office will make recommendations concerning "religious liberty" to the administration, and inform it of any failures of the executive to uphold those protections.

President Donald Trump has signed a so-called “religious freedom” executive order today, the National Day of Prayer, setting up a faith-based office, the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.

Vice President Mike Pence and Trump both delivered remarks ahead of the signing, taking place in the Rose Garden in front of around 200 religious leaders.

“Prayer has always been at the center of the American life. America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened by the power of prayer,” Trump said, calling faith “more powerful than government,” and adding “nothing is more powerful than God.”

Trump said the executive order will help protect “the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the federal government.”

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The newly formed office will make recommendations concerning “religious liberty” to the administration, and inform it of any failures of the executive to uphold those protections.

The order states the office will “provide recommendations on the Administration’s policy agenda affecting faith-based and community programs; provide recommendations on programs and policies where faith-based and community organizations may partner and/or deliver more effective solutions to poverty; apprise the Administration of any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law; and reduce the burdens on the exercise of free religion.”

“All executive departments and agencies that do not have Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives will designate a liaison to the Initiative,” the order also instructs.

“That’s fantastic,” Trump said after signing the order and holding it up for those gathered to see.

The White House livestream of the event follows.

Last year on the National Day of Prayer, Trump also signed a religiously based order, allowing the IRS to not enforce the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches and other nonprofits from “directly or indirectly” campaigning for a party or candidate or risk losing tax-exempt status.

Additionally, it included a carve out for those with “conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate” in the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).

Today’s order also includes language further undermining the Johnson Amendment, offering added protections for “any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization” who make political statements from any “action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit, or benefit.”

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Today’s signing comes amid the growing Stormy Daniels scandal, as yesterday Rudy Giuliani, who is a member of Trump’s legal team, said the president made a series of payments to reimburse his attorney, Michael Cohen, who paid the adult film star to not disclose an affair she said they had shortly after First Lady Melania Trump had given birth to the couple’s son, Barron.

Trump confirmed today that Cohen had been reimbursed, adding the payments were delivered through a “private agreement,” and were not made from campaign funds. He had previously claimed he was unaware of the payments.

On Monday, Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, filed a defamation lawsuit on her behalf on Monday. Daniels has said she was threatened by an unidentified man over a decade ago, in an attempt to get her to stay silent about the alleged affair, leading Trump to call the allegation a “total con job,” prompting the suit.

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