President Donald Trump has announced he will "get rid of and totally destroy" a 60-year-old rule that blocks tax-exempt religious groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates, The New York Times reports.
Repealing the law would require approval by Congress. Certain tax-exempt organizations – in this case, churches – are not allowed to openly endorse or campaign for political candidates. If they do, under existing law, they risk losing the benefits of their tax-exempt status.
Speaking to a gathering of religious leaders, the president also defended his immigration policy, brushed aside concern about his harsh phone calls with foreign leaders.
He did not mention an executive order on religious freedom, which critics said would restrict the rights of lesbians and gay men; a draft of the order has circulated, but administration officials have denied that it will be adopted.
In addressing the issue of churches and political speech, Mr Trump said, "I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution."
He added that "freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is under serious threat."
During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump promised to push for repeal of the law, which was passed in 1954 and named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who proposed the change to the tax code.