Jeremy W. Peter, of the New York Times, explains, “It is one of the brightest lines in the legal separation between religion and politics. Under the provision, which was made in 1954, tax-exempt entities like churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate. Specifically, ministers are restricted from endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. If they do, they risk losing their tax-exempt status.”
There are major concerns that come with churches endorsing candidates for political office.
Churches are supposed to be led by trusted members of society. But considering that they have breached this trust on many occasions, do we really want to add additional temptation and put their congregation up for sale to the deep pockets of politicians and special interest groups? Church members should be able to apply religious teaching to the candidates on their own without their leaders holding their hands. If they can’t, then maybe church leaders are not good job in their religious teachings.
It is also about integrity. If the preachers just preach, there is no concern that teachings are being directed by political donations. Their mission is to lead church member in the examination and commitment to their religion, not to steer beliefs toward a financial incentive. And don’t think for a second that it doesn’t make a difference, I watched church leaders, in a hypothetical situation, gear their mission toward grant money.
Even though churches already suggest their political interests to members and, due to public outcry, the IRS has essentially stopped enforcing church-led politics, it should not be legalized and open the door to political money—the same political money that is already ruining fair elections. Church leaders can and do offer their influence, because they can always make their political feelings known outside of church activities.
In addition, it is not a popular idea. Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, found that 79 percent of Americans thought it is inappropriate for churches to endorse political candidates. “Americans already argue about politics enough outside the church,” said McConnell. “They don’t want pastors bringing those arguments into worship.”
In that manner, it could also hurt the church attendance and financial support from the membership if they become divided over politics. Politics are increasingly being woven into society, and those who take sides, whether it is actors, athletes or business owners, risk losing or dividing their support. It may even prompt a church split, which unfortunately is already too common in the religious community.
The proposed repeal is noticeably political. In the spirit that nothing is sacred or constitutional anymore, churches are generally a stronghold of the Republican party, uniting the strange relationship between fiscal conservatives and social conservatives. Thus, Republicans have a partisan interest in churches endorsing candidates.
Ironically, if the Johnson Amendment is repealed, it could backfire on Trump in 2020. As I have mentioned many times, it is difficult for a moral Christian to justify or reconcile the ethics and values of their religion with voting for Trump and his transgressions.