President Trump is referring to an amendment enacted in 1954 which prevents tax-exempt organizations, particularly, religious organizations and churches from endorsing poltical candidates or getting involved in politics. The amendment has been seen by many as an affront to free speech. Why should a church or tax-exempt organization fear retribution for endorsing a candidate or getting involved in politics?
Many times, laws and politicians deal with moral issues which religious faith must interfere with. The Civil Rights movement, Slavery, Abortion, Contraception, and Abortion are some examples. These topics must be addressed by those in religious circles. To keep them out of the discussion and process is, in effect, silencing free speech. However, some priests have voiced their concerns such as Father James Martin of the Jesuits and Father Matthew Schneider of the Legionaries of Christ. They both claim that this will cause divisions in parishes. This is in fact possible. If a priest or pastor endorsed X candidate and parishioners support Y candidate, there will be friction.
Nevertheless, while the arguments against removing or curtailing the Johnson Amendment are good, they are based on slippery-slope scenarios. As it stands, parishioners often disgree about who to vote for. Catholic laity do not like when bishops or priest insinuate to them, who to vote for. I know this first hand working at many parishes. So the divisions will always be there regardless of the Johnson Amendment existing or not.
I think the Johnson Amendment should be fixed in such as way that allows free speech. This amendment has been used in the past to threaten bishops and clery of other faiths. Take the scenario with Bishop Jenky, see: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2012/04/bishop-daniel-jenky-church-will-survive.html. According to the Pew Research Center, most Americans are not in favor of Churches endorsing politicians.
This issue certainly hits home with me as well. I am planning on somehow making "Sacerdotus" a non-profit organization. If successful, I will not be able to write or speak on politics. This will limit my free speech as an American citizen and will prevent me from evangelizing via contemporary issues. As it stands, I have never publicly endorsed a candidate for the mere fact that I do not want to cause divisions or give wrong impressions.
I’m grateful for @POTUS’s support as we work to pass legislation to fix the #JohnsonAmendment https://t.co/G1relJtteV— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) February 2, 2017
Donald Trump just promised to blow up the wall of separation between church and state and repeal the #JohnsonAmendment. Not on our watch. pic.twitter.com/LnHx9FDMwl— American Atheists (@AmericanAtheist) February 2, 2017
Even if made legal, churches should not speak out on overtly political matters or endorse political candidates. It ends up dividing parishes https://t.co/hZC2aGylmj— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) February 2, 2017
Another reason churches should not endorse: to avoid becoming too allied with one political party, thus alienating many of their congregants— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) February 2, 2017
I don't think pastors should endorse politicians - Johnson Amendment or not - but a pastor's endorsement doesn't end democracy. #Ridiculous https://t.co/r1iQG4wXny— Fr Matthew Schneider (@FrMatthewLC) February 2, 2017
Just 33% of Republicans & 26% of Democrats say churches should endorse specific political candidates https://t.co/NVhGrZYhoy pic.twitter.com/4KWTeFbr8f— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) February 3, 2017