The Johnson Amendment is a hot button issue at the intersection of politics and religion.
What the Johnson Amendment does is prevent institutions with 501( c )(3) tax-exempt status, such as churches, from using the pulpit as a stump for a particular political candidate.
It’s actually quite narrow in its focus. Church leaders can still give their religious views on issues of the day, so nothing is being watered down because of the existence of the Amendment.
Want to preach on the sanctity of life, per Psalm 139:13? Feel free.
Want to preach about the ungodliness of the homosexual lifestyle, per 1 Corinthians 6:9? Even though the left rails and the LGBT lobby gnashes their teeth in protest, nothing in the Johnson Amendment stops churches from preaching what their faith teaches.
What’s more, churches can even set up voter registration booths within their walls.
In short, church is free to be church, but what they can’t be is a platform for any specific candidate or party.
President Trump made ending the Johnson Amendment a promise to Christian groups that supported him, saying it impeded on a church’s ability to “worship freely.”
On Tuesday, around 100 religious groups urged Congress to keep the Johnson Amendment in place.
“Current law serves as a valuable safeguard for the integrity of our charitable sector and campaign finance system,” the groups, which include the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Hindu American Foundation, said in a letter to lawmakers.
“Current law simply limits groups from being both a tax-exempt ministry and a partisan political entity,” the groups wrote.
“Permitting electioneering in churches would give partisan groups incentive to use congregations as a conduit for political activity and expenditures,” the groups wrote. “Changing the law would also make them vulnerable to individuals and corporations who could offer large donations or a politician promising social service contracts in exchange for taking a position on a candidate.”
Other groups standing in agreement with this positon include the Episcopal Church, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Sikh Campaign, Interfaith Alliance, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
As it now stands, plans are for a repeal of the Johnson Amendment are to be included in tax reform legislation.
This is a promise that never should have been made.
I’ve talked about this before, and I still hold this to be truth: the Johnson Amendment should have never been a thing, but equally, American churches and charitable organizations are not served by framing this as an issue of freedom of religion, or freedom of speech.
The purpose of our churches is to provide a place of spiritual comfort and fellowship to its congregation.
The purpose of charitable organizations is to provide for the community, based on their needs, not their politics.
I’ve had these discussions before, and no matter the candidate in question, I’ve always maintained that if you’re in a Christian church pulpit, promoting any politician, you’re promoting the wrong King.
Christians know that no manmade system is going to save this world. To promote government as an answer is to water down the Gospel, and those promoting the Johnson Amendment as a hindrance to worship do not fully grasp what it is to worship.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with churches allowing candidates to come speak, at least as a means of introducing themselves to the congregation, but if the message is overly politicized, then they have no business there.
I can say that I know many people who have been lifted because of the spiritual nourishment received in a good church setting.
I know very few who have been lifted where the government has become overly involved in their lives.
If that isn’t clear evidence of the need to keep politics from invading our church pulpits, I don’t know what is.