October 17, 2017
It used to be that liberals didn't want faith in the public square. Now they don't want it in churches either! That's been the message of the Left's IRS for decades. Under Obama, the agency breathed down the necks of nonprofits and religious entities in the name of the Johnson Amendment, threatening to take away their tax-exempt status if anyone spoke openly about the political issues of the day.
Conservatives have pushed back against this onslaught for years, insisting that Americans don't give up their right to speech when they enter a church. Donald Trump has been an outspoken ally, vowing from the beginning of his campaign that he'd knock out the Johnson Amendment, taking away a major weapon of censorship for the Left. If he succeeds, he'll have almost unanimous support from pastors.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) released some jaw-dropping numbers in a letter to Congress on Monday. Based on new Lifeway polling, 91 percent of pastors want the freedom to speak freely from the pulpit without the threat of government penalties. Another 73 percent want Congress to "remove the IRS's power to penalize a church because of the content of its pastor's sermons." For the Trump administration, which hasn't been shy about its disgust over the Johnson Amendment, this should be fuel to the Free Speech Fairness Act fire.
Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) have been trying for months to put an end to the Left's culture of intimidation. "Every American should be able to speak freely about their conscience and convictions -- no matter what their job is… Critics who say this blurs the line between church and state misunderstand the principle. Thomas Jefferson's 'separation' coinage doesn't mean that there is a wall of separation between the two; it just means that the state should not have control over the church, nor shall the church maintain control over the state."
"We're going to get rid of that [amendment]," President Trump said. And based on how he has fulfilled his other promises, he means it. Like us he knows, government bureaucrats shouldn't be bouncers at the door of free speech and religious freedom. It's time to rewrite the Johnson Amendment, once and for all.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.