In an Aug. 22 court filing, the Department of Justice admitted that President Donald Trump's May 4 "religious liberty" executive order didn't really change the law relating to partisan political activity by houses of worship.
Trump has repeatedly vowed to "totally destroy" the Johnson Amendment, a 60-year-old federal law that protects the integrity of nonprofits, including houses of worship, by ensuring they don't endorse or oppose candidates. In a July 12 interview with TV preacher Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump claimed to have "gotten rid of" the Johnson Amendment.
That claim warranted a "mostly false" label from the fact-checking site PolitiFact because it would take an act of Congress to change the law, and Trump's executive order that referenced the Johnson Amendment didn't do much other than signal forthcoming attacks against it.
Trump's own Justice Department affirmed the executive order's ineffectiveness when it filed a motion asking a court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The department admits that the Internal Revenue Service must treat houses of worship and secular nonprofits the same when enforcing the Johnson Amendment.