Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Johnson Amendment: Religious Freedom or Money & Politics

AdDaniel VILLAFRUELA [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 
President Trump wants to repeal the Johnson Amendment. What is it and why does the President want to get rid of it?

Basically, the amendment prohibits churches from "participating" or "intervening" in any political campaign.

Introduced in 1954 by then Senator Lyndon Johnson, the amendment keeps churches from lobbying or campaigning for any political candidate.

As NPR notes in this article about the amendment, The IRS has never really prosecuted any non- profit organization or church for violating the amendment.

So, why does Trump want to get rid it?  Some say its about money and politics. The Atlantic Magazine, for example,  notes that if the law is appealed,  then pastors can endorse candidates and more donations might flow into churches.

But others, including President Trump, frame the amendment in terms of religious freedom. Here's President Trump speaking about it at the National Prayer Breakfast.


Religious leaders fall on both sides of the issue. The Rev. Eric Folkerth at the Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, wrote in an article for the Dallas News:
"The reason people come to church is to be renewed in their spirit. People come to church to not necessarily be away from politics or social issues, but the primary focus of church is not politicians. The primary reason is faith and the worship of God. We speak out from perspective of faith, not from what our politicians believe or don't believe."
But other leaders, like Dr. Robert Jeffress at First Baptist Church of Dallas, argues that the amendment has been used by liberals to intimidate pastors.

The could be an interesting debate for students.

Here are some other resources.

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