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Full Version: Trump and the Johnson Amendment
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I actually find this to be the most interesting item on Trump's agenda. Also, it's a fun area to speculate on. I normally am cynical when it comes to politicians, but I'my optimistic here because Trump potentially stands to gain a lot from it. It would let Christian Churches more closely ally with Republicans. What Republican wouldn't love that?  Trump has shown good faith toward this effort by meeting with Christian leaders to ask them how to solve the problem.

I don't know if I agree with Charles's take that the Catholic clergy would be super slow to take advantage of the legal change, should it ever happen. I've heard many sermons by priests talking about unjust laws in a purposefully vague and indirect way. I can't help but think that, given the opportunity, those sermons would become more direct and focused on the issues. Priests are people just like us, so my thinking is that there are  many that are dying to unburden themselves and speak out against evils... to bring about social change.

I've been looking into the Johnson Amendment. It seems it was introduced by Johnson back in the 1950s when he was still a Senator -- and all because he wanted to disempower two anti-Communist groups who were speaking out against him when he was running for re-election.

It's really interesting how the law is enforced -- and not enforced -- and how incredibly vague it is. This pdf file gets into all that:  An excerpt:

Quote:After  a  thorough  review  of  the  IRS’s enforcement  of  the  Johnson Amendment, two prominent legal scholars concluded:

No  one  questions  but  that  spiritual  leaders  must  be  able  to  address their  congregants  on  matters  of religious  conscience  as  related  to issues of the day. As a result, one might ask how spiritual leaders can deliver  sermons,  write  pastoral  letters,  counsel  congregants,  and conduct Bible studies and discuss the application of scripture passages to  current life  choices  with  reasonable  certainty  of  not  violating  the political campaign speech prohibition. And if there is no such certainty
with  respect  to  these  matters,  how  can  the  IRS  determine noncompliance  with  the  statutory  ban?  Here  the  unsatisfactory answer  seems  clear:  IRS  decisions  are  based  largely  on  vague  or ambiguous  criteria  because  its  determinations  are  “fact  and circumstance” sensitive.

If legal scholars, attorneys, and even the IRS itself cannot agree — and in fact  argue — over  where  the  line  is  drawn  under  the  Johnson Amendment, how can the IRS realistically expect pastors to understand and apply the questionable speech restrictions?

Then there's the unequal enforcement -- and you can imagine how that sort of thing can go with a bunch of progressives in control of things! That pdf presents a case in which a "church" -- er, faith community -- called "Branch Ministries" took out ads telling Christians to not vote for Bill Clinton. They get reviewed by the IRS and their tax-exempt status is stripped from them. In defending themselves, that faith community "presented reports of explicit endorsements of Democratic candidates by clergymen
as well as many instances in which favored candidates have been invited to  address  congregations  from  the  pulpit." (The clergymen weren't named, but I hate to have to guess they were likely Catholics. Or Jews.)

That paper talks about Jeremiah Wright endorsing Obama, Jesse Jackson doing his thing in black "churches," etc., all without problems -- but Jimmy Swaggart got messed with for endorsing Pat Robertson when he ran for President. You get the idea.

Anyway, the amendment itself is a way to shut Christians up, and unequal enforcement is a way to shut up orthodox Christians while leaving the Episcopalians alone. That amendment has to go. It violates the 1st amendment right to free speech.