Prayers or Politics?

February 02, 2017

On the campaign trail last year, Donald Trump promised to eliminate the so-called "Johnson Amendment" that bars tax-exempt nonprofits from engaging in partisan politics (though they can still address political issues). Passed by Congress in 1954 and signed by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower (after being introduced by Democratic Senator Lyndon B. Johnson), the bipartisan tax regulation has been targeted by some political activists who want churches and other nonprofits to be able to endorse political candidates while keeping their tax exemption status.

Church & State, the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, explored the issue of the Johnson Amendment in its February issue. The article, which came out just before Trump again renewed his challenge to the Johnson Amendment during his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, includes comments from an interview with me.


In the article, I talk about how the provisions of the Johnson Amendment are actually good for churches. Other voices are making a similar argument as we prepare for an effort to repeal the regulation. Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, argued in a statement that “politicizing churches does them no favors" and the effort "to change the law would hinder the church’s prophetic witness, threatening to turn pulpit prophets into political puppets."

I hope the work of AU and BJC will help keep leaders in Washington, D.C., from repealing the Johnson Amendment. I appreciate the opportunity to add to the dialogue in Church & State.

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