Speaking during the National Prayer Breakfast this morning in Washington, President Trump declared that he will “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment,” which for decades has prevented efforts to turn houses of worship into partisan political tools. Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline issued the following statement in response:

“To hear President Trump say it, clergy in America are being muzzled and are too afraid to speak openly about the issues of the day. This is a lie that has been advanced for years by the Religious Right.

“No law or regulation restricts any faith leader from addressing politics from the pulpit, they just can’t use tax-exempt dollars for partisan politics. This restriction, known as the Johnson Amendment, applies to houses of worship just as it does to charities like the Boy Scouts and Red Cross. Donations to these groups are tax-deductible. If these groups could engage in partisan politics, the government would be subsidizing partisan politicking with citizens’ tax dollars. What’s more, houses of worships would become conduits for unregulated “dark money” in elections, with no restrictions or disclosure requirements.

“President Trump’s attack on the Johnson Amendment, if successful, would undermine religious freedom by plunging houses of worship into partisan politics and inviting the rewards and punishments of patronage. We strongly urge Congress to oppose the effort to undermine the Johnson Amendment, which has nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with grabbing power for the Religious Right.”

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.