On Thursday, President Donald Trump told religious leaders that he wants to “destroy” the “Johnson Amendment,” a IRS rule that prohibits churches from endorsing political candidates.
This is part of his campaign to restore religious freedom for all.
“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,” said Trump during the National Prayer Breakfast.
Trump had promised to get rid of the measure on his campaign trail.
Republicans argue that it halts free speech by tax-exempt organizations because they are forced to stay quiet about political stances in order to avoid paying taxes.
“For too long the IRS has used the Johnson amendment to silence and threaten religious institutions and charitable entities,” said Rep. Jody B. Hice, Georgia Republican. “As a minister who has experienced intimidation from the IRS firsthand, I know just how important it is to ensure that our churches and nonprofit organizations are allowed the same fundamental rights as every citizen of this great nation.”
GOP lawmakers, including Hice and the Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) in the House and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) in the Senate have introduced legislation to repeal the amendment.
“A four-page draft executive order being circulated among government officials, entitled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” would extend religious freedom protections to “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations, operated for a religious purpose, even if its purpose is not exclusively religious.” A copy of the draft was obtained by The Nation,” writes The Washington Times.
“I am … heartened that President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to repealing Johnson at this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast and look forward to working with him to make repeal a reality,” said Hice in a statement.
However, not everyone, especially many liberals, are in support of repealing the law.
“The repeal of the Johnson Amendment would unleash a new wave of dark money into the political system, effectively transforming houses of worship into the equivalent of religious Super PACS,” said Larry T. Decker, president of the Secular Coalition for America.
Some progressive activists have even coined the draft as “Donald Trump’s License to Discriminate Order.”
“It reads like a wish-list from some of the most radical anti-equality activists,” said Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign president. “If Donald Trump goes through with even a fraction of this order, he’ll reveal himself as a true enemy to LGBTQ people.”
NY’s Rep. Jerrold Nadler expressed similar sentiments and said the draft is “breathtaking in its scope — encouraging discrimination in social services, health care and across the federal government, creating a second class of citizenship for LGBT Americans and denying women access to constitutionally protected reproductive freedom.”
But as White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, Trump is aiming to defend religious liberty.
“We shouldn’t impose a religion on anybody. We are free to express our religion or not have one. That in our country is an equally valid way of living your life. At the same time, people who want to express their faith shouldn’t be ostracized because they want to do that,” said Spicer to reporters at the White House. “There’s clearly a lot of evidence in the last couple of years of the government coming in with a lot of regulations and policies that frankly denied people the ability to live according to their faith.”
Although Trump has shown support, repealing the law requires approval by Congress. And the repeal is already getting push back from Democrats and even some republicans, so we will see what happens.
Author’s note: Nonetheless, it looks like in this case conservatives have a greater voice and more support. It seems unfair that liberal groups like Planned Parenthood are allowed to have a loud political voice, while also receiving federal funds.
Editor’s note: While the Johnson Amendment is marginally a good idea in a neutral environment, the balance of propaganda against religion and against conservative thought in general has become overwhelming under Barack Obama.