Evangelicals and Trump’s Promise to “Destroy” the Johnson Amendment

The constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment is debated as a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Exercise clauses

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, has previously denounced the Johnson Amendment as a political tool used by secular organizations like the ACLU to “intimidate and silence pastors and churches in addressing the political issues, which often have deeply moral components that face our nation.” However, Land is cautious in his approach. “I personally don’t believe that churches should be endorsing candidates for office. Instead, we should be looking for candidates that endorse us, our values, our beliefs, our convictions.”

 

At yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Donald Trump said, “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.”

The 1954 amendment introduced by former Senator and President Lyndon B. Johnson bans all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations—which includes churches and parachurch ministries—from endorsing candidates or participating in political campaigns as an institution or risk losing their tax exempt status.

Members of Congress have already moved to introduce legislation reversing the Johnson Amendment. The Free Speech Fairness Act is thought by many conservative lawmakers and Evangelical leaders to be a fair remedy the to free speech infringements imposed by the Johnson Amendment.

“I am grateful to President Trump for raising this issue to prominence over the last year,” responded Dr. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, in a press statement. “For too long the infamous Johnson Amendment has dangled like a sword above the heads of pastors and ministry leaders, chilling their constitutional free speech rights.”

Hernan Castano pastors a minority church affected by a 2014 subpoena by the city of Houston demanding sermons dealing with homosexuality be turned over for review. As the Christian Post reports, Castano also lends his support to President Trump’s promise to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment.

“We need to repeal the Johnson Amendment because I have seen the faces of pastors, not only the pastors of big congregations but the pastors of smaller congregations,” Costano said. “I have seen the fear of their heart holding them back from speaking truth and I have seen them hold back from what will make a difference for their own people because they do not want the doors of their church buildings closed or their 501(c)(3) removed.”

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, has previously denounced the Johnson Amendment as a political tool used by secular organizations like the ACLU to “intimidate and silence pastors and churches in addressing the political issues, which often have deeply moral components that face our nation.”

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