At the National Prayer Breakfast this week in Washington, President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to repeal the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment has been used for decades by the American left to muzzle pastors and churches from having any voice in public policy. By misrepresenting the Amendment, organizations like the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU have sued churches and religious organizations that hold conservative views, claiming that their voice on cultural issues violates their tax exempt status. As a result, an obscure amendment to a 1954 tax bill has become a wet blanket to religious liberty and has undermined the First Amendment rights of faithful Americans.
The Johnson Amendment was inserted into a bill, H.R. 8300, which was signed into law as the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. The provision did not raise many eyebrows at the time of its passage, nor for years thereafter. That’s primarily because it had nothing to do with churches; it was inserted into the tax bill by Lyndon Johnson, then a U.S. Senator from Texas, in response to two Texas political think tanks with 501C-3 status that had endorsed his primary opponent in that year’s elections. Only after secular activists and activist courts later began to use it as a battering ram against conservative Christian organizations did it gain any significance or attention outside Texas politics.
President Trump is right to call for its repeal on grounds that it violates religious liberty and undermines the First Amendment. I sincerely hope that he and the Republican-controlled 115th Congress repeals this poison pill in the tax code that is a threat to churches and Christian organizations across the country. That the President is insistent on its repeal is a good sign that he is serious about protecting religious liberty and freedom of conscience in this country.
The President’s dogged and noble persistence in repealing the Johnson Amendment makes the Trump Administration’s decision to leave President Obama’s executive order on LGBT workplace “protections” in place all the more surprising. In reality, no EO was needed to protect LGBT citizens in the workplace; they already have equal protections under employment law enjoyed by all other Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation. The Obama-era EO not only is not needed to protect LGBT Americans, it actively persecutes Christian businesses and charitable organizations. By making it a legal requirement that all businesses and organizations that seek to do business with the Federal government actively support and promote LGBT issues and causes, the order actively discriminates against conservative business leaders and owners.
President Trump’s insistence that we repeal the Johnson Amendment is the right thing to do, and he is doing it for the right reasons. His continued support for his predecessors order that undermines religious liberty for Christian businesses seems contradictory in comparison. It is my hope that President Trump revisits President Obama’s order based on what it does, not what it says it does. I understand the reluctance to repeal workplace “protections” from LGBT Americans, but this order is about workplace promotion of a sexual agenda.
By repealing the Johnson Amendment and President Obama’s executive order that discriminates against Christian businesses, President Trump will reinstall religious liberty as a cornerstone of American liberty. While religious liberty is not a license to discriminate, neither is political correctness a license to persecute and exclude people of faith from political discourse or commercial activity.