The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. The amendment is named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas.
Trump had pledged to abolish the Johnson Amendment that bans churches from campaigning for Republicans from the pulpit while enjoying tax exemptions costing taxpayers well over tens-of-billions of dollars every year. Since it is probably too difficult for Trump to figure out how to unilaterally repeal the Johnson Amendment, reports are that he will conspire with Republicans in Congress to insert the “repeal” in a storied tax reform plan. It is an atrocity that while cutting taxes for the wealthy elite and corporations, Trump will give the religious right free reign to continue robbing billions more from taxpayers to campaign for Republicans who perpetually complain about other Americans getting “free stuff” as justification to cut social programs to save money.
Republicans like to condemn Americans reaping the lifelong investments in their Social Security retirement plans and Medicare as welfare recipients taking unearned entitlements as a reason to slash the taxpayer-funded retirement and healthcare programs. It’s just their way of stealing other people’s money. Now there is a report that Trump intends on making American taxpayers subsidize and support evangelical efforts to politicize their pulpits and elect more religious Republicans, while taking unearned entitlements that number in the hundreds-of-billions of taxpayer dollars. In 2013 the number was estimated to be about $82.5 billion annually; it has certainly increased over the past four years. For an idea of how much that robs the people, since the Meals on Wheels program began in 1974, “The federal government has spent over $150 billion on this grant since its inception.”
The Washington Post and The Hill reported that Republicans are adding a “provision to end the six-decade-old ban on churches supporting political candidates.” As remuneration to the religious right for helping Russia elect him, Trump will fulfill his vow to totally destroy the Johnson Amendment; a move opponents and this author know will “effectively turn churches into Republican super PACs.” Trump and Republicans veritably have to sneak the “church super PAC” provision into the broader tax reform legislation because a standalone repeal effort would “certainly face a filibuster in the Senate;” not that Republicans would allow a filibuster on a religious bill to stand any more than a filibuster on a religious Supreme Court nominee.
The move was applauded by evangelicals, particularly chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed, who claims abolishing the Johnson Amendment was every evangelical’s highest priority in helping elect Trump. Reed also said he could not care less how the amendment is repealed, just so it happens quickly to show that “Trump and other Republican leaders keep their [theocratic] promise.” Reed said:
“That would be fine with us, if it were to become law as part of a tax package. We’d like to have and up-or-down vote, but this might make it easier to pass.”
The president of Liberty University, evangelical fanatic Jerry Falwell said the concerns that evangelical churches will become Republican super PACs “are overblown” and he thinks any Republican repeal would be “carefully crafted” to guard against such an idea. His only concern is that now evangelical leaders are unable to campaign from the pulpit and still maintain their tens-of-billions of dollars annually in taxpayer provided subsidies. “That just needs to be worked out” according to Falwell. He also said that now churches are only allowed to use the taxpayer-funded tax exemption as a small percentage of their monetary support for Republican candidates. It is highly likely that if the mythical Jesus Christ actually existed, he is weeping.
However, not all non-profits and religious groups are enthused about giving evangelicals free reign to campaign from the pulpit while accepting tens-of-billions from unwitting taxpayers; but their primary concern is creating yet another method of hiding dark money Republicans depend on to stay in power. According to WaPo, last week about 4,500 tax-exempt organizations signed onto a letter to congressional leaders “urging them not to weaken or repeal the [Johnson] Amendment.”
The signatories to the letter claim, and rightly so, that repealing the Johnson Amendment will create a loophole in campaign disclosure laws because churches are not required to account for contributions from anyone even though they tax deductible for the donor class. The letter noted that, “nonpartisanship is a cornerstone principle that has strengthened the public’s trust of the charitable community.” Republicans see the repeal as an opportunity to force taxpayers to fund election campaign efforts supporting Republican candidates under the bovine excrement excuse of reinstating “religious freedom” to evangelicals pushing theocracy.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, Kevin Brady (R-TX) pledged in February to insert abolition of the Johnson Amendment in any tax reform legislation. Brady said:
“Places of worship across America need to be free to practice their faith without worrying about Washington or the IRS targeting their religious freedom. So in our tax reform we’re going to repeal the damaging effects of the [60 year old] Johnson Amendment once and for all.”
The corrupt and treasonous criminal in the Oval Office, Donald Trump, agreed with Brady’s assessment of the Amendment during his address at the unconstitutional National Prayer Breakfast and told the faithful precisely what they came to hear:
“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that, remember.”
Here’s the thing, though; “representatives of faith” are already free to speak and if the evangelicals took a minute to open that rule book they claim is the be all, end all, they would never even consider “campaigning from the pulpit,” or taking taxpayer’s hard-earned money, and would instead start paying their fair share of taxes.
The evangelical religion’s namesake, Jesus Christ, said that anything to do with “his Kingdom” is “not of this world” and unrelated to politics or whichever government of man happens to be in power. He also commanded, like the so-called “Apostle Paul”, that Christians are bound to obey the government authorities that their biblical god put in power and to pay their fair share of taxes; not take other people’s tax dollars to help elect Republicans. That is not this secular humanist’s opinion, it is in the evangelicals’ own version of the Christian bible; but there are very, very few evangelicals adhering to Christ’s commandments because they just don’t comport with Republican’s savage ideology.
The only equitable solution is revoking all church tax exemptions and then allow them to campaign from the pulpit to their religious heart’s desire. Doing so would not only save taxpayers tens-of-billions of dollars annually, it would allow the religious right to become a “legitimate,” tax paying extension of the Republican Party. However, they want it all and it appears they are going to get their wish to become taxpayer-funded Republican Super PACs that allows them to use other people’s money to elect more evangelical Republicans; Republicans happy to hasten America’s decline into a bonafide evangelical theocracy and replace the U.S. Constitution with their version of Christian Sharia law.
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