Eliminating the Johnson Amendment Could Be Bad for the Church

Eliminating the Johnson Amendment Could Be Bad for the Church

Lyndon B. Johnson was a brilliant politician (that isn’t necessarily a compliment). In 1954, he single-handedly removed the power of the church from politics with the passing of the Johnson amendment. The Johnson Amendment eliminates the ability of the church to endorse a political candidate from the pulpit. If a church were to endorse or oppose a candidate, they would risk losing their non-profit status.
Of course, you never know why a politician does what he or she does. Mostly those actions are political/self-serving in nature. From a political standpoint, passing legislation that (eliminates free speech) diminishes the power of the church was political genius (once again not a compliment).
Now President Trump wants to get rid of the Johnson Amendment. In fact, recent Republican legislation that has been introduced does just that.  Of course, they want to put a “limit” on how much money can exchange hands in terms of support. That is what I love about politics. On the surface, they write legislation that looks like it protects people from themselves. In reality, I am sure that it will be legislation that has many backdoors. If they really wanted to do this right, they would write it this way:
 
Churches can endorse or oppose political candidates from the pulpit. However, they cannot donate money or receive money as a gift for support in any shape or form. If that does occur, they automatically lose their 501(c)(3)status. Further, Pastors, church staff, or leaders cannot serve in any positions appointed by the politician that their church supported.  
Is it a good idea to give the Church a voice in politics when there is gray language on the money/favor part? My former pastor had a saying. If your head is made of butter, don’t sit by the fire. Pastors and people in general are all human. Temptation is temptation. Why place that kind of temptation on Pastors? Politicians are known for buying support. Churches need money. IT is human nature to rationalize anything. Pastors with the wrong motivations or rationalizations could throw their support behind a candidate for favors.
The reality is that politics and church are a bad idea if you don’t remove the money/favor part of politics. I wonder if they would even be spending time on the Johnson Amendment if it provided no potential financial benefit and favors? I apologize in advance for the cynicism.
I appreciate what President Trump is trying to do. At the same time, with politics as usual, I think it is a situation loaded with landmines.
  • crashtx1

    Thank you for your usual reasoned explanation of the issue.

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