Thursday, May 4, 2017

The First Amendment and Religious Liberty

Yesterday, Trump was rumored to be considering signing a "religious liberty" executive order enabling sweeping exemptions on basic civil liberties. Today, it appears that he's just trying to overturn the Johnson Amendment. 501 (c) (3) organizations, as well as churches and universities, don't have to pay taxes; in exchange, they're not allowed to promote or oppose a particular political candidate. Trump seems to feel that restricting churches from endorsing candidates is a matter of both free speech and religious liberty. The Founders would have disagreed.

What's the problem with having specific candidate endorsements from churches?
  • Churches don't pay taxes, and don't do any financial accounting. What's to stop unscrupulous PACs from laundering money through churches to fund particular candidates? If churches can support candidates, then they should have to report their income. Otherwise, your church is for sale - and you'll never know who bought it.
  • Our Constitution states quite clearly that there is to be no religious test for public office (Article VI, Section 3). How long would that last if churches can advance their own candidates?
Thomas Jefferson (the first founder to use the phrase "the separation of church and state") wrote: "The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."
That's why the Puritans left England, remember?


ChristineH said...

He is PRESIDENT Trump.

James LaRue said...

Indeed. As Adlai Stevenson said in 1952, "In America any boy may become President, and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes." - Welcome

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