House Republicans Move Against Popular Protection for Houses of Worship

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Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline issued the following statement in response to the new House Republican tax bill:

“Today, without a single change to the tax code, any member of the clergy can endorse a candidate and speak out for or against a candidate in as strong of terms as they would like. What they can’t do is use tax-deductible resources to further their political agenda. The Republican bill changes that. It will force every American to subsidize political speech they may disagree with. We can’t let that happen.

“This is political payback to the Religious Right for coming out in force to help elect President Trump in November. They have long sought to weaponize their churches for partisan battle, and President Trump and House Republicans are working to deliver to them the ability to launder church contributions into partisan “dark money.”

“The case for repealing the Johnson Amendment is based upon the lie that clergy in America are being muzzled. That’s nonsense. Faith leaders are free to address politics, they just can’t use tax-exempt dollars for partisan politics. This restriction applies to houses of worship, just as it does to the Girl Scouts, Red Cross and any other tax-deductible charity.

“As a rabbi who spoke freely on the issues of the day to my congregation, I firmly believe that allowing houses of worship into political campaigns would damage religious freedom by inviting the rewards and punishments of patronage into the pulpit. Does the Religious Right really believe that tearing down the wall between religion and government would allow endorsements to flow only one way?

“Scrapping the Johnson Amendment would undermine both church-state separation and religious freedom. It would also undermine our democratic system, which is already awash in unaccountable, undisclosed dark money. The House should strip the language from the bill, and the Senate should act to protect houses of worship from being turned into partisan tools.”