What is the Johnson Amendment and Why Should We Care?

johnson-amendment

Elizabeth Schmidt, a professor in the School of Public Policy at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, has provided a short and handy guide to a part of the United States tax-code known as the Johnson Amendment.

I encourage you to read it at Real Clear Religion.

In order to appeal to the sector of evangelicals who helped to get him elected, Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Johnson Amendment.  Those evangelical pastors and Christian political activists who oppose the amendment apparently want to use their pulpits to endorse political candidates without losing the tax-exempt status of their churches.  But according to Schmidt, only one church has ever been punished under the Johnson Amendment.  It would seem that conservative evangelical political activists might have bigger battles to fight than the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.

While Trump evangelicals fight hard for the right to endorse political candidates from the pulpit, few seem to be concerned about the potential of partisan politics influencing the church.  Remember the old Baptist saying, “If you mix horse manure and ice cream it doesn’t do much to the manure, but it sure does ruin the ice cream.”

3 thoughts on “What is the Johnson Amendment and Why Should We Care?

  1. I think it is overstatement to assert that Trump Evangelicals are fighting hard for the right to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. Most of the Evangelicals I know who are Trump supporters are not interested in their Pastor or church endorsing a candidate. I hardly ever hear otherwise. However, I do think most of them believe that the church has the right to endorse a candidate if they choose to. But fighting hard for the right to do so doesn’t characterize their position.

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  2. “The Johnson Amendment does not ban churches from endorsing political candidates. Neither does it in any way criminalize or punish churches that endorse political candidates. The Johnson Amendment is a part of Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, which establishes that charitable organizations are exempt from taxation. The amendment, therefore, is a limit on that benefit. The government has decided that if you want the tax exemption that this section of the tax code provides, then you have to refrain from endorsing particular political candidates. If a church or charity wants to endorse a particular political candidate they are free to do so. However, they will lose the benefit of not having to pay taxes to the federal government.” http://www.libertymagazine.org/contributor/you-cant-have-your-cake

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