ACLU won't sue, says 'religious freedom' order was 'elaborate photo-op'

ACLU won't sue, says 'religious freedom' order was 'elaborate photo-op'
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reversed course Thursday, saying it won't file a lawsuit challenging President Trump's executive order on religious political exemptions.

“Today’s executive order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome," ACLU director Anthony Romero said in a statement.

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"After careful review of the order’s text we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process. The order portends, but does not yet do harm to the provision of reproductive health services," Romero added.

The ACLU director went on to criticize Trump's assertion that he wants to do away with the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious institutions from supporting or opposing political parties and candidates.

“President Trump’s prior assertion that he wished to ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment with this order has proven to be a textbook case of ‘fake news,’" Romero said.

“The directive to federal agencies to explore religious-based exceptions to healthcare does cue up a potential future battle, but as of now, the status quo has not changed," he continued.

“What President Trump did today was merely provide a faux sop to religious conservatives and kick the can down the road on religious exemptions on reproductive health care services."

The ACLU initially signaled it would challenge the executive order in court, stating earlier Thursday that the organization intends "to file suit today.”

“Whether by executive order or through backroom deals, it’s clear that the Trump administration and Congressional leadership are using religion as a wedge to further divide the country and permit discrimination. We intend to file suit today,” Romero said in an earlier statement.

Despite reversing the decision, Romero warned that ACLU "stands ready to sue the Trump administration" if it triggers official government action.

“We will continue our steadfast charge to defend Americans’ right to exercise their religion and ensure their freedom from having others’ beliefs forced upon them. The ACLU stands ready to sue the Trump administration and in the event that this order triggers any official government action at all, we will see Trump in court, again."