Why the Founding Fathers Wanted to Keep Ministers from Public Office

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at an American Renewal Project event at the Orlando Convention Center in Orlando, Florida

Here is my latest piece syndicated at Religion News Service:

(RNS) There’s an old Baptist saying that goes something like this: “If you mix horse manure and ice cream it doesn’t do much to the manure, but it sure does ruin the ice cream.”

I thought about this saying when I heard that Donald Trump was speaking in Orlando, Fla., to 700 evangelical pastors associated with the American Renewal Project.

The American Renewal Project is founded and directed by David Lane, a conservative Christian political activist and former Jerry Falwell Sr. operative who is trying to get 1,000 pastors to run for political office between 2016-2018.

Lane believes that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, but in recent decades it has lost its way. This is why pastors need to hold political office. They should be on the front lines of Lane’s grand project to restore Christian America.

Lane’s vision for renewal is rooted in a deeply flawed version of American history. Despite the fact that nearly every American historian in the country, including evangelical historians like myself, rejects the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, Lane continues to peddle this view. He manipulates the past for the purpose of his political agenda.

When Trump says “Make America Great Again,” it is hard to imagine Lane interpreting that phrase in any way other than as a call to reclaim a golden age that never existed.

Read the rest here.

One thought on “Why the Founding Fathers Wanted to Keep Ministers from Public Office

  1. “The legislative history behind the prohibition is sparse. (44) Then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson inserted the provision as a floor amendment in 1954, without the benefit of congressional hearings. (45) Most commentators have deemed Johnson’s concerns parochial: a charitable organization was helping to fund one of his opponents in a primary election.

    The easy distinction which the IRS trumpets, assuring church leaders they can still address the great moral challenges of the day without fear of government oversight, does not work in practice.

    Even if this line does exist, religious congregations are hard-pressed to discern where the IRS will draw it on a case-by-case basis. Although the past lack of enforcement means that some religious leaders routinely flaunt the prohibition, in other cases the result of this uncertainty is a chilling effect on otherwise legitimate speech. Addressing political issues, many religious leaders might conclude, is too great a risk. The vagueness of the standard, coupled with the severity of the penalty and the uncertainty of enforcement, makes a compelling case for revision.”

    Mark Totten, Visiting Scholar, The George Washington University Law School. Fellow, Yale Center for Faith and Culture. JD (2006) Yale Law School. PhD, Ethics (2006) Yale University



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