Friday, February 3, 2017

Trump: 'I Will Destroy Johnson Amendment'

President Donald Trump is doing something other politicians have never done before.  He is actually doing what he said he would do. One of these things is the removal of the "Johnson Amendment" which restricts the free speech of Churches. During the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump stated, "It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, 'The God who gave us life and gave us liberty; Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?'  Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs."  Trump continued, '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."

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:  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.


1 comment:

  1. I believe the issue of division cuts deeper than anyone comments here. A pastor's decision to thump on candidates will result in people falling away, or migrating to less militant parishes (if there are any)-- or switching to some Evangelical or Episcopal denomination that is gun shy about political activism. This would have immediate "revenue-averse" effects and would erode catholic numbers when they are sorely needed. People have a strong tendency to vote with their feet in any environment where they perceive themselves (and are regarded) as second-class citizens. Catholics are exposed to enough single-issue advocacy and misrepresentation of Church teaching with things as they are. Why turn churches into Super PACS?


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