WASHINGTON — During a meeting with Religious Right leaders today in New York, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump vowed to change the U.S. tax code to allow churches to endorse politicians. Churches — along with all other tax-exempt groups — have been prevented since 1954 from backing candidates for public office. In response to Trump’s remarks, Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:

“I am astonished by reports emerging from Donald Trump’s meeting with conservative Christian leaders earlier today. It would seem that Mr. Trump is pandering to the Religious Right by playing into their narrative that Christian leaders somehow are being silenced. That claim is false — more designed to spread fear and raise money than represent the truth. 

“Religious leaders have no less of a right to speak out on political issues than any other American. What they cannot do is use their tax-exempt pulpit to do it. That’s no different than any other 501(c)(3) organization that is required by the IRS to stay out of politics in exchange for not paying taxes. 

“The reality is that religious freedom as we know it is indeed in danger, only not in the way that Tony Perkins and other leaders of the Religious Right would have you think. Religious freedom is in danger because of a deliberate effort to redefine it as only protecting a narrow sectarian view of religion seen as authentic by the Religious Right, a view that favors orthodox views of religion over more mainstream and progressive interpretations. The Religious Right is not seeking to preserve the First Amendment. They are trying to weaponize it.

“As Donald Trump continues his campaign for the presidency, he should remember that the person who obtains the highest office in the land will represent all Americans. The President of the United States needs to protect the rights of everyone regardless of their faith or belief and must not show favor to the views of those he sees as more politically aligned with him.”

Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.