During remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump said he wanted to ‘totally destroy the Johnson Amendment’. The amendment is a rule that prohibits churches from giving money or endorsing candidates as part of the deal for federal tax exemption. Trump’s statement puts religious freedom in danger and opens the churches up to dark money that has ruined our election process.
The president also declared that he would work to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits some tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates. And he pledged to protect religious freedom.
“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,” Trump said. “I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land.”
His claim to “defend and protect religious liberty in our land” really means for his preferred religion – Christianity.
*side note* It really made me ill to see the media coverage (like the article used for the quote in this post) to be focused on his remarks about his former TV show and the new host rather than his troubling remarks about religious freedom.
As the Secular Coalition notes in their action alert:
The Johnson amendment is a law passed by Congress in 1954 that prohibits nonprofits (including churches) from endorsing political candidates. On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump called for it to be repealed. On Day One of the new Congress, Rep. Walters heeded that call by introducing H.R. 172, which claims to “restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches.”
The Johnson Amendment’s ban on church politicking is crucial for holding churches accountable to the responsibility that comes with the privilege of nonprofit status. Society has chosen to grant tax exempt status to those organizations that promote the public welfare, not partisan politics.
Churches are the only nonprofits not required to file a Form 990, which discloses information about a nonprofit’s expenditures and sources of revenue. No religion should be elevated above accountability.
Because churches are exempt from these crucial transparency requirements, the repeal of the Johnson Amendment would effectively allow churches to function like Super PACs and unleash a new wave of religious ‘dark money’ into the political system.
To be clear, the “no politics” rule protects the government from undo influence from the churches AND protects the churches from undo influence from the government through the state’s taxing authority.
Faith leaders are free to speak about politics just not as leaders of their faith community where it seems like they are asking members to vote for a particular person running for office.
Use the action alert link above or call your elected officials and ask them not to repeal the rule. If the repeal goes through then I would support taxing all the churches to the full extent of the law.