Trump Vows to "Totally Destroy" the Johnson Amendment

Because of LBJ's rule, many pastors have felt effectively silenced for over half a century lest they run afoul of the IRS.

Official 1964 portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office (Arnold Newman/White House Press Office)
Official 1964 portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office (Arnold Newman/White House Press Office) (photo: Screenshot)

It's just been reported that President Donald Trump, while speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, pledged to end the Johnson Amendment, which allows the IRS to revoke a church's tax exempt status for endorsing political candidates.

And whether you like Trump or not, you have to admit that so far he has kept his promises, the most important of which was nominating a pro-life justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But this morning he reportedly said:

It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life gave us liberty.” Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs.
That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that. Remember.

In fact, just yesterday, Republicans introduced legislation in the House and Senate called the "Free Speech Fairness Act" to repeal the Johnson Amendment and restore the very basic rights of free speech to churches and non-profits to advocate politically from the pulpit without fear of their tax-exempt status being revoked by the Internal Revenue Service.

Lyndon Baines Johnson first introduced the amendment in 1954 as a ruthless form of revenge against two non-profit groups which had attacked him for being soft on communism. So intent on muscling this through, Johnson made sure it passed the Senate without any discussion and only a voice vote.

Because Johnson's ire had been raised, many churches and pastors have felt effectively silenced for over half a century, unable to speak about our country's course because they fear running afoul of the IRS. I believe this country is better off with hearing from our churches. I think the voice of the Church is desperately needed right now in this country, perhaps more than ever before.

The front page of the new L’Osservatore di Strada, which will be available June 30.

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