By Rich Kozlovich
If there ever was a President of the United States that could rattle the establishment more than President Trump – I don’t know who. Trump declared at “the National Prayer Breakfast last week that he would “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment.”
First, you’ve heard of the “Johnson Amendment” haven’t you? No? Well, let’s fix that!
On December 9, 2017 the National Review posted an article by Alex Entz entitled, , Republicans
Should Keep the Johnson Amendment, saying: “The political payoff of repeal is dubious, and there are strong philosophical reasons for churches to avoid politics.”
The author goes on to explain the “1954 Johnson Amendment, though seldom enforced, currently bans tax-exempt groups — including churches — from directly endorsing political candidates." But the question we should be asking is – Why was such an “amendment” ever passed in the first place?
For the first 178 years of American independence America’s "rabbis, priests and preachers could stand in their pulpits and say anything they wished”. What horrible harm did that bring to the nation? Try the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution, but the left can even find harm in that because the Freedom of Speech is being attacked on universities by leftist students, teachers and administration all over the nation.
However, as time went by it became obvious to Johnson, they - that being the real target of the Johnson Amendment, the churches - didn’t necessarily like what Johnson liked - or Johnson for that matter - so they had to be prevented form opposing him by rule of law.
First off, the term “Amendment” is a misnomer. In reality in 1954 as Majority Leader in the Senate Johnson snuck this in the Tax Code with a voice vote. It was never debated by Congress. All of which was to prevent those with tax-exempt status from discussing political candidates in the way they had been capable of doing since the founding of the nation.
And with this came the “threat of an IRS investigation, fines or loss of tax-exempt status”. From this point on “501(c)(3) nonprofit entities, including churches,” had to live under fear of their right of free speech, which now placed the IRS in a position that could, and would, allow them to monitor perfectly legal actions of nonprofits and churches.
But make no mistake about this - it was the churches Johnson was really targeting - and we've seen IRS abuses under the Obama administration in recent years. Make no mistake about this – Lyndon B. Johnson was a cad whose corruption ran deep - a man who would use any means to rig elections - and had a history of doing so. If that meant finding a way of using government force against those who opposed him – he would create law to do it.
There are those who claim this would “subsidize” religion, but that’s a logical fallacy, since they're already “subsidized” with their tax free status. Employees of institutions who receive funding (another nice term for subsidies) such as hospitals and universities have no such prohibitions and are not threatened by the IRS for their political speech. And in the case of freedom of speech at universities - which mostly amounts to rioting and intimidating anyone who disagrees with them – all illegal I might add. - but a peaceful church leader encouraging his flock to take a stand on a politician or is subject to attack by the IRS. I often wonder if the IRS is going after Muslim leaders for making declarations of death and destruction of ..... well.....take your pick.......there seems to be an endless list of those they want to kill and nations they wish to destroy.
Let’s dismiss this clabber about the “wall of separation between the church and state.” That’s not anywhere in the Constitution and has become a mythical principle. When Jefferson said that he meant the state could not interfere with the churches, not the other way around. Churches are part of the community and have every right to express their views without any interference from the government and any individual or group of individuals, and their tax status is immaterial.
As for the claim this would turn the churches into “super PAC funds” my answer is – so what? It’s not the business of government to decide whether or not this is acceptable. As for those church leaders who claim the vast majority of church members are opposed the changing the law as they don’t want their churches being political during a sermon. Well, then let them act accordingly in their church! Their views shouldn't be incumbent on all the other churches as to what they can do.
This cannot and should not be an issue of majority opinion. The Constitution makes it clear every American should be able to express their opinions and act freely on their conscience and convictions, no matter where they work, or their tax status, and all the clabber that’s being spewed out over this misses two fundamental points.
First, Freedom of Speech is a constitutional right, and according to the founding fathers of this nation – that right is an unalienable right bestowed on humanity by God.! It’s not a privilege to be granted or taken away by government whimsy or political expediency. It’s a right that belongs to the people of the United States!
Secondly, how could this become an issue in the first place? The 16th Amendment! If the 16th Amendment is repealed that will be the end to income tax, and the IRS will become meaningless, and any potential abuses by them will cease to exist. Income tax gives the government untold power to control anything and everything. That's the real issue - not the Johnson Amendment - the Johnson Amendment is merely a symptom of the real problem - government corruption and abuse.
As for National Review - This is an example of how far they've strayed into the leftist fever swamps in recent years. I often wonder if William F. Buckley is rolling over in his grave.