Should There Be Separation of Church and State?
Last week, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at the Johnston Amendment. First, a little history on the Johnston Amendment. This bill was introduced and written by Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in 1954. The story goes that he was angry that a few non-profits ganged up on him in his race for the Senate by labeling him as a communist. The bill was designed to authorize the IRS to take away their tax-exempt status if a non-profit ever heavily participated in politics by making endorsements and or getting involved in campaigns. Thus, this separated church and state. Of course, churches were included because of their non-profit status.
As a side note and from the dark world of politics, it was a brilliant political move. Can you imagine if organized religion were heavily involved in politics? I doubt that there are too many politicians who openly want to give the church a voice.
Did Trump give the church a voice? Well, sort of and not really. He signed the executive order so that people were not penalized for their “protected religious beliefs.” In the executive order, he strongly discourages the IRS for going after churches for engaging in politics. However, it doesn’t change the law. President Trump can’t pull that off with the stroke of a pen.
Is the Johnston Amendment a good thing or a bad thing? I really don’t know the answer to that question. The list of positives includes completely free speech for everyone. The church banding together to throw support behind a candidate would be strong. Unfortunately, the cons of repealing the bill seems to be much worst then the good that would come of it.
After all, you are bringing the dark underbelly of politics to the church. Pastors, if not careful, could be bought and sold with money changing hands. How about a huge donation to the church? The worst-case scenario is involving the church in questionable political processes and activities. Obviously, not every Pastor would end up being seduced by the world of politics. Why create temptations for churches and Pastors?
Would the good outweigh the bad? Would this executive order be enough to motivate a Pastor to take a chance and endorse from the pulpit? What is your take?