Q Syndicate✒May 11, 2017
With the firing of James Comey the other day, it seems like ages ago that Donald Joffrey Trump issued his executive order on "religious liberty." Leading up to the signing, everyone expected the order to fulfill the theocratic right's wish list: undermining marriage equality by creating a right for governmental officials, commercial entrepreneurs, landlords and anyone else to refuse service to same-sex couples; and allowing religious institutions to become a pitch-black money funding conduit for the Republican party.
What the theocrats got instead was a promise to get rid of the 1954 "Johnson Amendment" (named for then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, not the Johnson that Johnson complained was restricted by pants with too tight a crotch). Under the amendment, churches and other tax-exempt nonprofit organizations "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,"
The theocrats were greatly disappointed.
Here is the translation: religious leaders speaking from the pulpit have nothing to fear from the IRS if they speak about political issues unless they specifically endorse or oppose particular political candidates. Like all non-profit organizations with tax-exempt status, religious entities aren’t allowed to speak well or ill of individuals running for office. But the Johnson amendment precludes only this kind of talk; it does not bar preachers from holding forth on moral issues of the day. That has been the rule for decades. Mr Trump’s executive order merely repeats it.So your pastor can preach the Gospel According to Making America Great Again all he wants; he just isn't supposed to preach the Gospel According to the Committee to Reelect Trump.
Big whoop, said culture warrior Mark Movsesian at First Things:
In fact, the IRS has given churches a lot of leeway when it comes to speaking out on political issues. As Ross Douthat tweeted last week, one could have followed law-and-religion debates for years and not heard a single complaint from conservatives about the unfair application of the Johnson Amendment, or an argument for removing the restriction on churches’ electioneering. It’s not an issue anyone was talking about.Or, in the words of Princeton University Professor Robert P. George, the Johnson Amendment is "irrelevant, it’s offensive, it’s ignored by churches anyway."
Furthermore, the Johnson Amendment is an act of Congress, and as such can't be willed away by an executive order anyway. Not that the current Republican Congress wouldn't gladly revoke it: they could easily make sure that the Sierra Club or ACLU still had to obey the rule, but they might find it more difficult to keep the rule in effect for Black churches, liberal synagogues, and mosques of all stripes.