Press Release

ADL Says Trump’s Executive Order Weakens Church-State Separation

Politicizing the Pews is bad for Religion and Democracy

New York, NY, May 4, 2017 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is deeply troubled by the Executive Order President Donald Trump issued today ostensibly “promoting free speech and religious liberty.” ADL expressed concern that religious organizations may believe this order empowers them to engage in more political activity, even though it does not actually change the law to permit that.

“If churches and other religious institutions read this order as an invitation to start politicking, they are mistaken,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “What the Executive Order will do, unfortunately, is politicize the pews. And as an organization committed to ensuring religious freedom for all people, we know that separation of church and state is designed to protect both. This order weakens the foundations of the wall and could seriously damage the integrity and independence of houses of worship.”

By undermining the Johnson Amendment’s critical protections, the Executive Order will foster inappropriate religious entanglement with politics, campaign donations and special interests. Further, it will likely encourage divisive manipulation of religious organizations by campaign donors who are not subject to customary campaign finance laws – a process that could make politicians beholden to religious majorities and darken the transparency of the electoral process.

“No president can repeal a law by Executive Order, and that’s a very good thing in this case,” said Marvin D. Nathan, ADL National Chair. “But enforcing the law is the executive branch’s job.  Our nation needs a meaningful Johnson Amendment to protect democratic values and maintain the separation of church and state.”