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 celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.