Fear-Mongering and Politics in the Pulpit: A Wrap-Up of Trump’s Dinner with the Court Evangelicals

Metaxas at Party

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas in the court

Over at Religion News Service, Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins have a nice wrap-up of all the tweets, guests, speeches, etc….  Here is a taste:

WASHINGTON (RNS) — The White House hosted a dinner Monday night (Aug. 27) for about 100 evangelical Christian leaders and senior-level officials, honoring evangelicals, as one participant explained, “for all the good work they do.”

Calling America “a nation of believers,” President Trump said at the event that they had gathered to “celebrate America’s heritage of faith, family and freedom.”

“As you know, in recent years the government tried to undermine religious freedom, but the attacks on communities of faith are over,” the president said. “We’ve ended it. We’ve ended it. Unlike some before us, we are protecting your religious liberty.”

Trump also took the opportunity to press evangelicals to turn out their supporters on Election Day later this year, according to an audio recording of the event leaked to The New York Times.

“I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote,” Trump told the crowd, according to the Times. “Because if they don’t — it’s Nov. 6 — if they don’t vote we’re going to have a miserable two years and we’re going to have, frankly, a very hard period of time because then it just gets to be one election — you’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got.”

Trump then appeared to claim that if Democrats win, they “will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently.”

Read the entire piece here.

I have to give Trump credit.  He knows that fear-mongering is one of the best ways to motivate evangelicals in the public square.  Trump’s remark about “violence” reminds me of the 2016 GOP primary when Ted Cruz said the federal government would soon be removing crosses from tombstones.  This kind of rhetoric, as I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trumpworks very well with evangelicals.

Trump also asked evangelical leaders to use their power to influence the 2018 midterm elections.  Several folks writing today on social media think that evangelical churches with preachers who use their pulpits to endorse candidates should lose their tax-exempt status.  And they are correct.  The so-called Johnson Amendment forbids churches from endorsing candidates.  Trump promised his evangelical followers that he would remove the Johnson Amendment from the tax code, but so far he has not been able to do it.  But it is unlikely that it will be enforced while he is in office.  (In fact, it was rarely forced before he took office).

But what about the other side of this equation?  What will the preaching of politics from pulpits do to the church?

What Does the Trump Administration Mean by “Religious Freedom?”

jeff-sessions

At the State Department’s recent “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed that there is a “dangerous movement, undetected by many” that is “challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom.”  This “dangerous movement,” Sessions added, “must be confronted and defeated.”

I am part of the camp that believes people with deeply-held religious beliefs on social issues should be free to uphold those beliefs in a pluralistic society.  In other words, there are times when liberty of conscience in matters of religion should be protected despite the fact that others might see these beliefs as discriminatory.  When it comes to living together with such deeply-held convictions, I hope for what Washington University law professor John Inazu has described as “confident pluralism.”

Having said that, I am not a fan of the way the Trump administration uses “religious liberty” to invoke fear.  I wrote about this kind of fear-mongering in my book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Sessions’s use of words like “dangerous” and “undetected by many” and “confronted and defeated” wreaks of political scare tactics and culture-war rhetoric.  I am surprised he did not roll out the phrase “deep state.”

Sessions claims that “ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit.”  First, I don’t know of any contemporary cases, if any, in which government has threatened ministers from preaching from the Bible.  Fear is often based on false information.  Second, I suspect Sessions is conflating the preaching of “holy writ” from the pulpit with the endorsement of political candidates from the pulpit.  This is how many pro-Trump evangelicals understand “religious liberty.” This is why Sessions and Trump get so bent out of shape by the “Johnson Amendment.”  (Frankly, I think Trump could care less about the Johnson Amendment, but if he can promise its repeal he can gain political points with the evangelicals in his base).

Sessions goes on.  He talks about the ways the Pilgrims in Plymouth, the Catholics in Maryland, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, the Scots-Presbyterians in the middle colonies (Sessions apparently does not realize that Pennsylvania is a middle colony and most Scots-Irish came to Penn’s colony), and Roger Williams in Rhode Island championed religious freedom.  He adds: “Each one of these groups and others knew what it was like to be hated, persecuted, outnumbered, and discriminated against.”  What Sessions fails to note is that the Pilgrims (and Puritans in Massachusetts Bay) did not provide this precious religious freedom to people who did not have the same religious beliefs as they did.  He fails to note that Roger Williams founded Rhode Island because he was kicked out of Massachusetts Bay for failing to conform to Puritan orthodoxy (among other things).  He fails to note that Puritans executed Quakers in Boston Commons.

I could go on, but I don’t have the time or inclination right now to exegete Sessions’s entire speech.  It is worth noting, however, that all of Sessions’s examples of religious liberty are Christian examples.  There is no mention of religious liberty for Muslims, Jews, or other people of faith.  Parts of Sessions’s address read like a Trump stump speech.  He lauds Trump for making it safe to say “Merry Christmas” again.  Really?  Is this what the Trump administration means when they say they are going to champion religious liberty?  This sounds more like the kind of Christian civilization those “liberty-loving” Puritans and Pilgrims wanted to create back in 17th New England.  (Ironically, these early American Calvinists did not celebrate Christmas because they thought it was a pagan holiday).

OK, I am rambling.  But if you want some context on the way Trump and his minions think about religious liberty, I encourage you to check out Jason Lupfer’s recent piece at Religion & Politics.  It is worth your time.

The Johnson Amendment Survives New Spending Bill

johnson-gathering

This event, which Trump claims repealed the Johnson Amendment, did absolutely nothing. 

One of the reasons that the court evangelicals love Donald Trump is because they believe he will get rid of the so-called “Johnson Amendment,” the clause in the tax code that prevents churches from endorsing political candidates.  There are even some court evangelicals who believe that Trump has already eliminated it.

In reality, the Johnson Amendment is still on the books.  In December 2017, conservative politicians failed to remove it from the tax code.  Let the record show that the Johnson Amendment is still alive and well.  The spending bill that the House passed yesterday did not repeal it.

Tom Gjelten has it covered at National Public Radio.  Here is a taste:

Among those who pushed hard to get rid of the Johnson Amendment were Vice President Pence and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., along with other conservative members of Congress.

Scalise’s press secretary, Lauren Fine, said the amendment’s repeal “remains a priority” for the Louisiana congressman but that the provision fell victim this week to the bipartisan negotiation over the spending bill. “It’s unfortunate that this was not one of the things that made it in,” Fine said.

The drive to repeal the amendment was led by conservative activists such as Ralph Reed and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and had strong backing from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal aid organization. Since 2008, the ADF has promoted “Pulpit Freedom Sundays” as occasions when pastors should challenge the prohibition against political activity by preaching openly about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking office.

The campaign has never gained much momentum, however, perhaps because relatively few pastors appear to feel constrained by the amendment, and because surveys show Americans don’t want to hear more politics from the pulpit.

Read the entire piece here.

The Johnson Amendment Survives in New Tax Bill

Johnson gathering

Many court evangelicals believed that Donald Trump’s executive order eliminated the so-called Johnson Amendment.  It did not.

Richard Rubin is reporting that the Johnson Amendment remains part of the U.S. tax code.  Here is a taste of his report at The Wall Street Journal:

Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) says the chamber’s parliamentarian has blocked a proposal to let churches and charities engage in partisan politics, keeping it out of the final tax bill set to be unveiled Friday.

The repeal of the Johnson Amendment was in the House tax bill but not in the Senate’s version, and it was a priority for President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Read the rest here.

This should be interesting.  As we have noted multiple times here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, the Johnson Amendment is one of the centerpieces of Trump’s appeal to conservative evangelical voters.  Will the court evangelicals turn on the President?  I doubt it.

Here is Christianity Today’s reporting on this.

 

Trump Lawyers: The President’s Religious Liberty Executive Order Does Nothing

Johnson Amendment

This signing accomplished nothing

I and others have been saying this since Donald Trump signed the order in May.  Now Trump’s lawyers are finally admitting it.  Here is a taste of Derek Hawkins’s piece at The Washington Post:

President Trump promised a new world for the religious when he signed an executive order in May purporting to make it easier for churches to engage in politics without losing their tax-exempt status.

“You’re now in a position to say what you want to say,” he told religious leaders at a Rose Garden signing ceremony. “No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors.”

But many religious activists and experts on the relevant law said the order didn’t do much of anything, that it amounted to a symbolic gesture with little chance of shaking the status quo.

Now, the Trump administration’s own lawyers have essentially taken the same position.

On Tuesday, Department of Justice attorneys defending the order argued in court that it doesn’t change any existing laws or alter any policies to benefit churches or clergy. Rather, they said, it merely tells the government not to take any punitive action against religious groups that it wouldn’t take against other tax-exempt organizations.

“None of the remarks made by the President suggest that the Executive Order grants an exemption to religious organizations while denying the same benefit to secular organizations,” DOJ lawyers wrote in a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Madison, Wis.

The order targets a provision in the tax code known as the Johnson Amendment that bars churches and other tax-exempt groups from speaking on behalf of political candidates. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to destroy the Johnson Amendment, and his executive order was billed as a fulfillment of that pledge.

But the prohibition is seldom enforced by the IRS and is widely disregarded by clergy. As a result, critics have called Trump’s order meaningless.

“It’s irrelevant, it’s offensive, it’s ignored by churches anyway,” conservative Christian scholar Robert P. George of Princeton University told The Washington Post after the signing ceremony in May. “He got enthusiasm in return for getting nothing.”

Looks like the court evangelicals have more work to do.

Clergy: Do Not Repeal The Johnson Amendment

Williams ChurchOver 4000 clergy want Congress to preserve the so-called Johnson Amendment.  You may recall that the repeal of this part of the federal tax code has been a major part of the court evangelical agenda and, by extension, Donald Trump’s appeal to evangelical voters.

Read our coverage of the Johnson Amendment here.

Click here to read the text of the clergy’s letter asking Congress to leave the Johnson Amendment alone.

Here is a taste:

As a leader in my religious community, I am strongly opposed to any effort to repeal or weaken current law that protects houses of worship from becoming centers of partisan politics. Changing the law would threaten the integrity and independence of houses of worship. We must not allow our sacred spaces to be transformed into spaces used to endorse or oppose political candidates.

Faith leaders are called to speak truth to power, and we cannot do so if we are merely cogs in partisan political machines. The prophetic role of faith communities necessitates that we retain our independent voice. Current law respects this independence and strikes the right balance: houses of worship that enjoy favored tax-exempt status may engage in advocacy to address moral and political issues, but they cannot tell people who to vote for or against. Nothing in current law, however, prohibits me from endorsing or opposing political candidates in my own personal capacity.

Changing the law to repeal or weaken the “Johnson Amendment” – the section of the tax code that prevents tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates –would harm houses of worship, which are not identified or divided by partisan lines. Particularly in today’s political climate, engaging in partisan politics and issuing endorsements would be highly divisive and have a detrimental impact on congregational unity and civil discourse.

Adele Banks has some context at Religion News Service.

It looks like most of the Christian signers are mainline Protestants.  I did not recognize too many names.  This is partly because most of the signers are local pastors and partly because I am not as familiar with mainline Protestantism as I am with evangelicalism.

Do the Court Evangelicals Have Any Influence on Trump’s Policy?

pastor-mark-burns-donald-trump

Trump with court evangelical Rev. Mark Burns

It is now abundantly clear in the wake of Charlottesville that the court evangelicals do not have any influence with Donald Trump when it comes to racial issues. Of course such a statement implies that they have actually talked to the POTUS about these issues and told him that his statements about Charlottesville are morally bankrupt.  The last year makes me skeptical that a conversation of this nature has ever happened, but if it has, Trump hasn’t listened.

But what about Trump’s policy decisions? Have the court evangelicals had any sway over the POTUS?  This is a more difficult question to answer.  Trump has given conservative evangelicals the Supreme Court justice they wanted in the person of Neil Gorsuch. Trump has appointed and will appoint many federal judges as well.  He has the potential of changing the makeup of the federal judiciary.

It is also likely that the court evangelicals were behind Trump’s ban transgender people from the military.  If he gets what he wants on immigration restriction, he will get it with the support of the court evangelicals.  If he gets what he wants with the Muslim ban, his conservative evangelical advisers will cheer.  If the Johnson Amendment is removed, it will be the fulfillment of a promise he made to the court evangelicals. Betsy DeVos’s understanding of American education is in line with the views of conservative evangelicals.

Historian Neil Young, in a great interview at The Pacific Standard, is not so sure that Trump has made policy inroads with the Christian Right.  Young writes:

All of Trump’s relationships, I think, have to be seen as transactional. But the real question remains about what’s actually being transacted here. On the policy front, he hasn’t made moves to address issues that are traditionally very important to the religious right: The promises Trump has made have been more symbolic. For example, Trump recently promised that “We are going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” But beyond “Merry Christmas” rhetoric, I think his central campaign promise to conservative Christians was that he was going to restore right-wing Christians to the center of American power. It remains to be seen how exactly he’s going to accomplish that as president, but I think even just the promises of power represented something that voters really seemed to respond to.

Read the rest of interview here.

Trump Throws A Bone to Conservative Evangelicals. Now He Can Move On.

jeffress

Trump and Robert Jeffress in the oval office this week

The evangelical community’s response to Donald Trump’s recent executive order on religious liberty has been largely negative.  As I wrote yesterday: “I don’t think Trump cares about religious liberty.  But he is very good at saying the kinds of things that will keep conservative evangelicals on board the Trump train.”

Let’s review.

First, Trump’s executive order does not repeal the Johnson Amendment. Despite what the POTUS says, the IRS still has the right to remove the tax-exempt status of a church that has a pastor who endorses or opposes a political candidate.

Second, the order does nothing to “exempt some religious organizations” from the Obamacare contraception mandate.

Third, it says nothing about the threats to religious organizations that uphold traditional views on marriage.

As veteran religion reporter Terry Mattingly informs us, the American Civil Liberties Union thought the order was so void of meaning that it felt there was no need to file a lawsuit against it.  Here is a taste of the ACLU press release:

After careful review of the executive order covering the Johnson Amendment signed by President Trump today, the American Civil Liberties Union has determined not to file a lawsuit at this time.

American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero issued the following statement:

“Today’s executive order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome. After careful review of the order’s text we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process. The order portends but does not yet do harm to the provision of reproductive health services.

“President Trump’s prior assertion that he wished to ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment with this order has proven to be a textbook case of ‘fake news.’

As I have been writing here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, there are internal divisions in the Trump White House over religious liberty.  Mike Pence is on the conservative evangelical side.  Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are on the other side. This executive order suggests that the Ivanka/Kushner camp has the upper hand.

Princeton University professor and defender of religious liberty Robert George agrees:

And then there are all of the court evangelicals–the men and women swayed by the power of the presidency.:

Robert Jeffress believes that “religious liberty is now protected, not assaulted.”

And there is more:

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. told Fox News Radio that the executive order “proves to me President Trump’s a man of his word.”  (Did he read it?).  He also suggests that he can now speak politically on behalf of Liberty University and doesn’t always have to preface his remarks by saying that he is only speaking as an “individual” and not as a representative of the institution he presides over.

There is a very good chance that Trump is duping the likes of Jeffress, White, and Falwell Jr. Trump needed evangelical support to win the election and he will need evangelical support in 2018 and 2020.  This executive order keeps some evangelicals in the fold.

Some might say that the order is symbolic of Trump’s sensitivity to evangelical concerns about religious liberty.  Maybe. But it seems more likely that the order is symbolic of Trump’s political savvy and the willingness of some evangelicals to fall for it as they continue to genuflect on the altar of political power.

Trump’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty Didn’t Do Much

Here it is:

EXECUTIVE ORDER

PROMOTING FREE SPEECH AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to guide the executive branch in formulating and implementing policies with implications for the religious liberty of persons and organizations in America, and to further compliance with the Constitution and with applicable statutes and Presidential Directives, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom.  The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government.  For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans’ first freedom.  Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government.  The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections.

Sec. 2.  Respecting Religious and Political Speech.  All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech.  In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury.  As used in this section, the term “adverse action” means the imposition of any tax or tax penalty; the delay or denial of tax-exempt status; the disallowance of tax deductions for contributions made to entities exempted from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of title 26, United States Code; or any other action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit, or benefit.

Sec. 3.  Conscience Protections with Respect to Preventive-Care Mandate.  The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate promulgated under section 300gg-13(a)(4) of title 42, United States Code.

Sec. 4.  Religious Liberty Guidance.  In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.

Sec. 5.  Severability.  If any provision of this order, or the application of any provision to any individual or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and the application of its other provisions to any other individuals or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.   

Sec. 6.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or 

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE,
    May 4, 2017.

Over at Christianity Today, Kate Shellnut explains why conservative evangelicals should not get too excited.

We predicted the same thing yesterday morning.

This order did not overturn the Johnson Amendment because Trump does not have the power to do this.  Nor did it say anything about exemptions for religious groups “faced with accommodating LGBT antidiscrimination regulations that conflict with faith convictions.”

Frankly, I don’t think Trump really cares about religious liberty.  But he is very good at saying the kinds of things that will keep conservative evangelicals on board the Trump train.

Evangelicals Fighting the Johnson Amendment are Missing the Point

johnson-amendment

It looks like Donald Trump will issue some kind of order later today that attempts to weaken the so-called Johnson Amendment, a provision in the federal tax code that forbids churches and other religious organizations from opposing or supporting political candidates.

Most evangelical pastors do not want to use their pulpits to endorse or oppose candidates, but there are many other conservative evangelicals who believe that the Johnson Amendment violates their freedom of speech and ultimately their religious liberty.

Today’s announcement will be part of a larger presidential statement about religious liberty.  Read more about how it will all go down in this New York Times report.

Here is a taste:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday will ease restrictions on political activity by churches and charities, White House officials said, but has backed away from a broader religious liberty order that would have allowed faith-based organizations and companies to avoid serving or hiring gay people.

Conservative religious leaders who were fierce supporters of Mr. Trump’s candidacy had pushed the president to provide faith organizations with much more sweeping relief from Obama-era regulations that protect gay men, lesbians and others from discrimination.

Instead, in an executive order, Mr. Trump will offer a vague promise to “protect and vigorously promote religious liberty.” He will also direct federal agencies to exempt some religious organizations from Affordable Care Act requirements that provide employees with health coverage for contraception.

By making those promises to mark the National Day of Prayer at the White House, Mr. Trump is offering a partial remedy to the anger inside some religious communities toward federal laws they believe require them to put aside beliefs about homosexuality, contraception or other issues.

Read the rest here.

Yesterday we asked whether Mike Pence or Ivanka/Kushner will ultimately win the day on these religious liberty issues.  So far it appears that Trump is trying to walk a tight-rope between Pence’s conservative evangelical views and Ivanka/Kushner’s more inclusive approach.

If The New York Times report is accurate, it looks as if Trump is going to do little more than tell the IRS, without any authority beyond his bully pulpit (no pun intended), to stop investigating the political activism of clergy.  This will not fully satisfy many conservative evangelicals, but I am sure some of them will spin it to their favor simply because they believe Trump has been anointed by God for such a time as this.

As I have now argued multiple times at this blog and elsewhere, clergy who oppose the Johnson Amendment because they want to speak politically from their pulpits seem to be more concerned about freedom of speech than they are about the way this kind of political partisanship undermines their Gospel witness.  Good evangelical pastors should really care less about this whole Johnson Amendment debate.  Why? Because they know that if you mix horse manure and ice cream it doesn’t do much to the manure, but it sure does ruin the ice cream.”

When the government starts telling evangelical pastors what they can and cannot preach in terms of theology, Biblical interpretation, or ethics (even sexual ethics), I think we have a problem.  The Johnson Amendment, which has been around since 1954, is not this kind of problem.

Here’s a thought:  Evangelicals might consider the Johnson Amendment as a useful reminder from an unlikely source about the dangers of using the pulpit to preach politics or the spiritual problems brought on by using the sanctuary as a campaign office.  In other words, evangelicals should embrace the Johnson Amendment as an IRS-enforced safeguard to make sure that they don’t fall into sin or idolatry.

Sometimes God watches over his church in interesting ways.  (Isaiah 55:8).

 

Evangelical Leaders: We Don’t Want to Endorse Political Candidates

trump-evangelicals

When Donald Trump says at his rallies that he will abolish the so-called “Johnson Amendment” he gets wild cheers.  (Although I have not heard him talk about this much lately.  I think he only brings it up when he talks to evangelicals).

But if this study from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is correct, most of those people cheering at the rallies must have some serious differences with their pastors over whether or not it is appropriate to endorse political candidates from the pulpit.

Or perhaps the people who want the Johnson Amendment abolished attend evangelical churches that are not affiliated with the NAE.

Or perhaps these people don’t attend church (and thus do not have pastors), but still think that pastors endorsing candidates is a good idea.

And if a September 2016 study by Lifeway is correct, about 80% of evangelicals do not want their pastors to endorse candidates.

So who are these people cheering for Trump when he says he will abolish the Johnson Amendment?

Here is a taste of David Gibson’s Religion News Service piece on the NAE study:

The centerpiece of President Trump’s religious freedom agenda, and the carrot he often dangled in front of Christian leaders as he sought their support during the campaign, was a pledge to overturn a 1954 law that says houses of worship can lose their tax-exempt status if they engage in partisan campaigning.

But a new survey of evangelical leaders — mainly pastors whose flocks were crucial to Trump’s victory in November — shows that close to 90 percent of those asked opposed the idea of clergy endorsing politicians from the pulpit.

Read it all here.

 

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.”