Hey, Tony Perkins and Fox News, the Johnson Amendment does not stop pastors from preaching religious beliefs
Tony Perkins and Fox News teamed up Thursday morning, just after President Donald Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, to misinform viewers about what the law does and does not do. While no one should be surprised the leader of a certified anti-gay hate group would be embraced by Fox News, it was an offensive display of the miseducation of America.
The Johnson Amendment, named for then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, is a half-century old law prohibiting churches, religious institutions, and some non-profits from endorsing political candidates.
What it does not do is stop them from preaching their faith, from endorsing or opposing political or social issues, contrary to what Perkins and Fox News just claimed.
So, if a preacher, rabbi, priest, pastor, imam, or other religious leader, or even the CEO of a faith-based non-profit wants to denounce same-sex marriage, or even claim homosexuality is a sin, they can do that, with no concern the IRS will strip away their tax-exempt status. And that’s really what this is all about: money. Many churches and other religious non-profits have become multi-million and multi-billion dollar corporations, thanks in part to the fact that they and their employees often pay zero taxes.
That tax-exempt status costs tax-paying citizens well over $80 billion a year. In other words, every man, woman, and child in America on average pays about $250 a year extra in taxes so churches don’t have to. More, actually, if you deduct the people who are tax-exempt.
Some say it’s a small price to pay for freedom of religion, but the religious right that opposes the Johnson Amendment want their cake and they want to eat it too – and they want taxpayers to pay for it.
So they lie, and they turn to platforms like Fox News to help them misinform Americans.
Here’s what a Fox News host said about the Johnson Amendment today:
“It essentially makes most churches and religious leaders feel that their hands are tied, that if they express any endorsement of any particular religious position or party pr person who’s running for office that they risk their tax-exempt status.”
Perkins immediately supported the Fox News host’s false statement, saying, “correct.”
Notice the word “feel.”
There law, which is very readily accessible on the IRS’ website, makes very clear what the rules are. And those who oppose the law most know that the IRS has almost never stripped a religious entity’s tax exempt status for violating the Johnson Amendment – and perhaps they should start.
For a decade this statement has lived on the IRS’ website: “…these organizations can engage in advocating for or against issues and, to a limited extent, ballot initiatives or other legislative activities.”
Also not correct is the claim of “most churches and religious leaders.” In fact, in light of President Trump’s announcement that he will “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which represents thousands of Southern Baptist Convention churches and individuals nationwide – one of the largest religious groups in the nation – issued a statement denouncing the president’s intention:
“Politicizing churches does them no favors. The promised repeal is an attack on the integrity of both our charitable organizations and campaign finance system.
Inviting churches to intervene in campaigns with tax-deductible dollars would fundamentally change our houses of worship. It would usher our partisan divisions into the pews and harm the church’s ability to provide refuge.
To change the law would hinder the church’s prophetic witness, threatening to turn pulpit prophets into political puppets.”
They know that repealing the Johnson Amendment is a sure-fire way to impoverish churches, especially smaller ones who struggle to stay afloat.
But that’s really why Trump wants to repeal the law: he wants the cash to fuel his re-election, which he has already filed for.
Trump is no great Christian warrior. He is using the cause of “religious liberty” to line his campaign treasury and to get votes. How very un-Christian
At the intersection of politics, religion, law, social justice, and civil rights, The New Civil Rights Movement is a broadly cited media organization delivering news and opinion dedicated to the wide interests of the progressive and LGBT communities.
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