As a candidate and shortly after taking office, Trump declared he would "totally destroy" what's known as the Johnson Amendment, a six-decade-old ban on churches and other tax-exempt organizations supporting political candidates.
But pastors are already free to deliver political speeches, and regularly do.
Many have criticized the order as vague as to what the federal government actually will do.
The ACLU said that while it has chosen not to sue the Trump administration right now, it will sue his administration if the order triggers any future government action. "And once again this administration has taken another step down a unsafe slippery slope, undermining safeguards against discrimination and the intrusion of partisan politics into our faith communities and other aspects of civic life created to serve the needs of all of the American public".
"Among many faults, the EO requires the IRS to selectively and preferentially discontinue enforcement of the electioneering restrictions of the tax code against churches and religious organizations, while applying a more vigorous enforcement standard to secular nonprofits", the complaint states.
The order does not seem to include a measure that would allow organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs, as it had been thought it might.
During his campaign, Trump promised to repeal the Johnson Amendment.
The Johnson Amendment, named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, is a provision in the USA tax code that prohibits all 501 (c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. The IRS is officially tasked with investigating suspected violators of the law, though only one organization has lost its exemption as a result of IRS action in the six decades the law has been in place.
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Despite the president's show of the bill, policy experts say that the order will have little to no noticeable effect on current policy.
Trump's executive order also allows private employers to use religion to deny reproductive healthcare to employees.
The president declared his administration would be "leading by example" on religious liberty in the US.
"Not only for our community but for our nation, no pastor has to fear speaking about issues, whatever the bible has to say about it, they can speak freely without any fear of being drug into court", Cowart said. "We must never infringe on the noble tradition of change from the church and progress from the pew". "We are giving our churches their voices back and we are giving them back in the highest form". In other words, individuals and religious organizations still can not participate in political campaigns.
The executive order makes no mention of any such provision, much to the dismay of conservative religious leaders, who believe the president has ignored the wishes of his most fervent supporters.
That is the loosely enforced amendment that has prevented religious leaders from talking politics since the 1950's.
Briefing reporters ahead of the signing on Wednesday evening, a senior official downplayed the possibility that churches would soon act as political groups advocating for particular candidates.
Those who do could lose their tax-exempt status. "That's illegal now for them, as a condition of their tax-exempt status".