WASHINGTON - Leading Jewish American organizations offered mixed reactions on Thursday to the executive order signed by President Donald Trump that will make it easier for religious institutions to engage in political activities. While the Anti Defamation League expressed concern over the order and said it erodes the separation between Church and State, the Orthodox Union congratulated the administration.
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The executive order, which the president described as "promoting free speech and religious liberty," will ease the ban on political activity by religious groups. The ADL said that the executive order "will foster inappropriate religious entanglement with politics, campaign donations and special interests."
The organization added in a statement it issued on Thursday evening that "further, it will likely encourage divisive manipulation of religious organizations by campaign donors who are not subject to customary campaign finance laws." The group's CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said that "this order weakens the foundations of the wall and could seriously damage the integrity and independence of houses of worship.”
On the opposite side of the debate, the Orthodox Union released a statement in support of the new order, explaining that it commends Trump "for issuing an executive order affirming and protecting religious liberty in federal law and policy." The Orthodox Union was one of the only Jewish organizations earlier this year whose leadership spoke positively about Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, in part over Gorsuch's views on religious liberty.
The organization, which is an umbrella for dozens orthodox groups and institutions, added that "we are grateful that President Trump has made it clear that his administration will promote and protect the religious liberty of Americans of all faiths wherever possible. We look forward to working with the White House, Justice Department and others to implement the principles laid out in today's executive order.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council joined the ADL in criticism of Trump's order, saying it was "designed to pander to his ultra-right base" and that it "undermines one of the most fundamental principles of our government - the separation of church and state."