Republicans meeting in Cleveland for the Republication Convention to nominate Donald Trump as their nomination for President have finalized their political platform. One of its highlights is their intention to repeal a 50-year-old law that prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from political organizing.
“This is going to create a revolution among Christian leaders, nonprofit universities, and nonprofits in general,” Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Christian-based Liberty University said in a media interview.
In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson introduced an amendment to ban 5501(c)(3) organizations, including both churches and charities, from engaging in political campaign activity. Congress passed the amendment.
While some believe the law violated religious leaders’ First Amendment right of free speech, other believe it maintains the integrity of the tax system under which churches and nonprofits do not pay taxes on their income and contributions made to them are tax-deductible by donors.
Christian leaders, evangelicals and Catholics want to be politically active and not lose their tax-exempt status. Nearly 60 percent of Republicans believe churches should express their political views, compared with 42 percent of Democrats.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and Republican platform committee member, said the proposal to repeal the law would be a “priority” of a Trump administration. Nearly 80 percent of white evangelicals say they would support it.
Religious organizations should “have the ability to speak freely, and … should not live in fear of the IRS,” Perkins said.
Previous attempts to repeal the Johnson Amendment in 2013 and 2015 have failed in Congress.
Reverend Steven Baines of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said in 2012, “Basically what you’re doing when you endorse a candidate from the pulpit is you’re flowing thousands of dollars of non-taxed money to political parties. They are turning houses of worship into political action committees without risking that taxable income.”
“When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.” The Great Controversy, page 445.
“With rapid steps we are approaching [the loud cry and the Sunday law]. When Protestant churches shall unite with the secular power to sustain a false religion, for opposing which their ancestors endured the fiercest persecution, then will the papal sabbath be enforced by the combined authority of church and state. There will be a national apostasy, which will end only in national ruin.” Evangelism, page 235.