Friday, February 03, 2017

Trump Vows to ‘Destroy’ Ban on Political Endorsements by Churches

If there were any big winners in the 2016 presidential election it was the Christofascists who appear well on their way toward achieving a Christian dominionist America.  Reportedly, Christian extremist Jerry Falwell Jr., a man who is anti-science and who supports the teaching of creationism will head an education reform task force under Donald Trump and is keen to cut university regulations, including rules on dealing with campus sexual assault.  With Trump's potential "religious freedom" executive order and/or the passage of the "First Amendment Defense Act," Christofascists will be above a myriad of non-discrimination laws and state and local nondiscrimination protections will be voided.   Now, Trump said his administration would “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. As noted in a column in the Washington Post, Christian Sharia law is coming to America.  The New York Times looks at Trump's latest frightening promise to Christofascists.  Here are highlights:
President Trump vowed on Thursday to overturn a law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, a potentially huge victory for the religious right and a gesture to evangelicals, a voting bloc he attracted to his campaign by promising to free up their pulpits.
Mr. Trump said his administration would “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status.
“Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us,” Mr. Trump told religious leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast. “That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”
Repealing the law would require approval by Congress, which could prove challenging given that Democrats, and even some Republicans, would resist what many view as an erosion of the separation between church and state.
Eliminating the measure has been a goal of many social conservatives, who argue that it unfairly restricts clergy members from expressing themselves by endorsing, or speaking out against, political candidates.
Many see government persecution in limits on their official religious activities at work, and complain that the Internal Revenue Service — an agency that the right views with a special ire — singles out churches dominated by Christian conservatives.
It was one of several checklist items that religious conservative leaders told Mr. Trump were important to them. And they reacted to his announcement with delight.
Few Americans had even heard of the Johnson Amendment when Mr. Trump turned it into a rallying cry during the campaign. He told a crowd at the Iowa fairgrounds last August, “It denies your pastors their right to free speech, and has had a huge negative impact on religion.”
No one lobbied Mr. Trump to make the amendment an issue, said Johnnie Moore, a Christian publicist who serves on the president’s evangelical advisory board. He said Mr. Trump himself fixed on it in his first campaign meeting with the board members last June at Trump Tower.
Mr. Trump asked them why they did not have the courage to speak out more during elections. When the pastors informed him that they could lose their tax-exempt status, Mr. Trump declared the law unfair.
In meetings since then between Mr. Trump and pastors, whether in public or private, Mr. Moore said, Mr. Trump consistently says, “Everybody in this country has freedom of speech, except for you.” 
Churches and clergy members are free to speak out on political and social issues — and many do — but the Johnson Amendment was intended to inhibit them from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Separately, the Free Speech Fairness Act was introduced in the House and the Senate on Wednesday. The bill would modify the Johnson Amendment by allowing churches and other charities to engage in political expression.
However, most Americans, and even most clergy members, say they do not want churches and houses of worship to engage in partisan politics. Nearly 80 percent of Americans said it was inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church, and 75 percent said churches should not make endorsements, according to a survey released in September by LifeWay Research, an evangelical polling group based in Nashville.

As with everything else with Trump, what a majority of Americans want and/or support means nothing.  Rather it is all about empowering the ugly minority that put him in office due to a fluke in the Electoral College that made Hillary Clinton's winning of the popular vote meaningless. 

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