East Tennessee faith leaders impacted by President Trump's executive order

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - President Trump signed an executive order Thursday that he said will give churches and religious organizations more freedom to express their political beliefs.

The order discourages the IRS from enforcing the Johnson Amendment, which bars tax-exempt churches and charities from participating in politics.

The Johnson Amendment, written in 1954, "prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one "which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

The president of Carson Newman University, Dr. Randall O'Brien, said the order may not have much affect.

"The IRS is now free not to enforce the law, well the truth is it hasn't been enforced in many quarters anyway, to my understanding," said O'Brien.

O'Brien continued said it's vital that churches remain open and inclusive to all who want to come.

"Let us stay true to the gospel, because in reality God is the only one who is infallible when it comes to truth," said O'Brien.

When asked about the fear of losing a tax-exempt status from the IRS, Rev. Bob Gamble of West Broadway Church in Lenoir City said he supports the order but will stick to the mission of the church.

"We're gonna stay with the word of God, if tax exemption is gone then it's gone, but we will continue to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ," said Gamble.