Thanks for visiting HeraldMailMedia.com. You’re entitled to limited access of articles every 30 days. If you enjoy our site and want full access, we ask you to purchase an affordable subscription.
Suddenly, we are hearing a great deal about freedom of speech behind the pulpit. The talk is about a law passed 60 years ago that forbids clergy from engaging in political activities. If a clergyman did engage in political events, such as having a favored candidate give an address at a church, the church could lose its tax-exempt status.
On Feb. 2, President Trump boldly declared in a speech, “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.” This piece of legislation was the work of Lyndon B. Johnson, who at the time was a senator from Texas. It would appear that Trump’s verbal blasts are premature, in view of the fact that a religious polling firm, Lifeway, found in a 2015 study that 79 percent of the population thought pastors should not endorse candidates during worship services.
This sudden interest in the repeal of the Johnson Amendment is shown by the offer of U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., of H.R. 172, in which he claims to restore “the free speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by appealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.” Actually, Jones had presented such a law since 2008 without creating much favorable reaction. However, things changed in the 2016 presidential election when Trump began to promise that he would repeal the Johnson Amendment. Indeed, that promise was then included in the Republican Party 2106 platform.
According to an article in the January issue of Church & State magazine, Trump was encouraged to appeal the Johnson Amendment by Jerry…