President Trump has displayed in his first week in office the kind of “Energy in the Executive” that Alexander Hamilton described as “a leading character in the definition of good government.” With the stroke of a pen, he has imposed a government hiring freeze, ended taxpayer funding of international abortionists, and reduced Obamacare’s burdens.
Trump should now harness that energy on behalf of God’s servants. He has taken an oath to defend the Constitution. He can prove he means it by barring IRS enforcement of an unconstitutional gag rule on pastors – more commonly referred to as the Johnson Amendment. This rule, enacted in 1954 by then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson and his cohorts, prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from supporting (or opposing) political candidates, no matter how pro-life (or pro-abortion) they may be. More to the point, it prohibits members of the clergy from doing so – at least those not named Jackson, Wright, or Farrakhan.
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) introduced a bill to repeal the Johnson Amendment. Trump shouldn’t wait, however, for the bill to snake its way through the Capitol – if it ever does. Instead, he should proudly, publicly, and immediately order the IRS to ignore the Johnson Amendment, which would create at least three enormous benefits:
1) Trump Could Seize the Mantle of Constitutionalism
Refusing to enforce a statute might not seem like a great way to gain constitutional street cred. As Elizabeth Slattery noted in the Washington Post last year, Obama’s refusal to enforce narcotics and immigration laws made him a menace to the Constitution. But, as she also noted, there is a noble history of presidents refusing to enforce unconstitutional laws:
many scholars agree that presidents may refuse to enforce a law if they believe it is unconstitutional, since the Constitution is itself the highest law that must be ‘faithfully executed.’
By refusing to enforce the Johnson Amendment, Trump could invoke a tradition dating back to Thomas Jefferson’s refusal to enforce the Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798.
2) Trump Could Win Over #NeverTrump Christians
Candidate Trump won a truckload of votes from Christians who believed he would stand with them in the Left’s War on Faith. Indeed, he expressly and repeatedly promised to repeal the Johnson Amendment:
Many of us think Christians got played by Candidate Trump. I want President Trump to prove us wrong. Killing the Johnson Amendment with an executive order would be a great start.
3) Pastors Could No Longer Use The Johnson Amendment to Camouflage Cowardice
Invalidating the Johnson Amendment will not suddenly transform all of the nation’s ministers into patriot pastors. As Michael Brown pointed out a few weeks ago, many pastors refuse to call out enemies of religious liberty out of fear of losing parishioners, tithes and shiny buildings rather than fear of IRS sanctions. Others adhere to the Johnson Amendment under a misguided interpretation of Romans 13.
What Brown overlooks is that killing the Johnson Amendment will expose pastors’ true motives – and empower believers to sift wheat from tares. Pastors who remain AWOL in the Left’s War on Faith after the Johnson Amendment is repealed may find congregants voting with their feet.
Starting with the purging of school prayer over half a century ago, the church has largely surrendered to the Left – on abortion, obscenity, gay “marriage” and now “gender identity.” The church’s enemies are at the gates and, soon, will be in the sanctuary itself. If those who won’t support their families are worse than unbelievers, then “pastors” who remain silent when officials openly advocate curtailment of religious liberties are worse than false prophets.
This can happen in America, too. Trump can kill the Johnson Amendment and make pastors great again.