Close Encounters of the Ron Kind

Close Encounters of the Ron Kind

November 09, 2017

Democrats say the darndest things. Of course, most of the press are too busy taking Donald Trump out of context to notice -- leaving plenty of liberals free to say whatever outrageous things they want. Congressman Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) is the latest beneficiary of the liberal media's double standard, barely receiving any coverage for his shocking statement on the House floor this week.

In what will surely be a contender for Most Preposterous Statement of 2017, Kind let loose on the GOP's push to repeal the government's muzzle on churches and other nonprofits, known as the Johnson Amendment, arguing that doing so would somehow lead to mass killings. While America still walks around in shock from the long shadow cast by the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Rep. Kind had the audacity to suggest that letting pastors talk openly about the political issues of the day would lead to blood in the streets. "Repealing the Johnson Amendment will politicize the pulpit, it will create civil war in the pews. You politicize the pulpit, it's going to make the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East look like a picnic."

Stunned, conservative columnists for Townhall and PJ Media re-watched the footage to make sure they'd heard him right. They had. The Wisconsin Democrat actually claimed that the protection of free speech would lead to something worse than 1,400 years of sectarian slaughter. In the millions of words uttered on the House floor this year, few have been as ludicrous as those. For starters, protecting and promoting free speech has led to more peace, not less. Secondly, if Rep. Kind thinks an amendment that most Americans have never heard of would trigger the centuries of carnage we've seen in the Middle East, he's off his rocker. Americans of different faiths aren't engaged in sectarian violence -- and I highly doubt that a reiteration of the First Amendment would incite it.

But Rep. Kind isn't the only one fearmongering over what should be a non-issue. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgian Democrat who introduced an amendment to keep the Johnson Amendment, echoed the lunacy, telling House members that rolling back a misused piece of the tax code would "pit worshipper against worshipper." "It will literally," he warned, "wreak havoc on the last pillars of civility in our country." Then, in perhaps the greatest irony, this Georgian African-American said, "During the civil rights movement, we fought to tear down pillars of hate and discrimination."

He's right. But where does he think we'd be now, as a nation, if pastors like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. hadn't made their voices heard on the racial segregation of the day from that same pulpit? Under the 63-year-old piece of the tax code, the IRS could have punished him for making the argument that turned the tide of the civil rights movement simply because he was a pastor! Even JFK's successor himself couldn't dream of the trouble his amendment has caused. The future president Lyndon Johnson (who was a senator at the time) wanted to use the language as a way to stop his political opponents. But what it's become instead is one of the single greatest weapons against free speech in America's churches.

Donald Trump intends to change that -- with the help of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), and Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.). From day one, he's made it clear, "Under my administration, free speech does not end at the steps of a cathedral or synagogue or any other house of worship." In fact, Trump's commitment to the issue was one of the first real areas of common ground he staked out with evangelicals. At this year's Values Voter Summit, he let them know he hadn't forgotten it.

"Among many historic steps. The executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises to so many of you: to prevent the horrendous Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights. We will not allow government workers to censor sermons or target our pastors or our ministers or rabbis. These are the people we want to hear from, and they're not going to be silenced any longer."

So what's driving the Left's fierce opposition to the push? Simple -- fear. Although they'd never say so publicly, liberals know what a difference informed and engaged Christians can make in the political process. See November 2016. As agents of cultural change, evangelicals clearly influence our nation's future when they are united. Meanwhile, the Left doesn't have the same motivation to overturn the Johnson muzzle as conservatives, since the Obama IRS has never bothered to crack down on its own. The Jeremiah Wrights of the world have been left alone to preach whatever they want while evangelical pastors are disproportionately targeted by liberal bureaucrats.

It's time to level the playing field. "We don't need to protect government from our faith leaders," House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said. "We need to protect faith leaders from government."

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Also in the November 9 Washington Update:

Postcards from Jordan

A Small Town with a Big Witness

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