No place for Washington to punish churches over politics

No place for Washington to punish churches over politics
© Greg Nash

This past weekend looked a lot like 1954. As Rasmussen reports more than half of Americans attended church on Easter and an even higher percentage of American Jews participated in a Passover Seder according to JNS. This is encouraging considering that barely one-in-three Americans attend church or synagogue in a given week. Back in 1954, almost half of Americans were attending a place of worship on a given weekend. It was also the last year those places of worship were allowed to engage in political activity.

The Johnson Amendment was passed to prevent churches and other 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from engaging in political activity. The boundaries for these organizations are clear, and most responsible entities follow the rules so as not to jeopardize their exempt status.

Most campaign finance reformers agree that big political money being run through churches — or worse yet invented churches set up for that purpose is a problem. The Johnson Amendment goes too far. It focuses on silencing religious leaders from saying anything about their faith that could have political implications. This restriction is a direct hit on the First Amendment protection of the free enterprise of religion (which is actually in the Constitution, not a right that was “discovered” centuries after the founders passed away.)

We now have a ridiculous system under which huge sums of secret money can be funneled into U.S. elections from anywhere in the world through unverified credit card contributions, LLCs or other means — while a young pastor or rabbi could cost their place of worship their tax status by talking about the relevance of a tenant of their faith to a modern…

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