Written by Don Byrd
In a new op-ed published in the Washington Post, BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler and Rabbi David Saperstein explain why they are thankful that the Johnson Amendment has remained intact to date, despite President Trump’s promise during last year’s National Prayer Breakfast to “totally destroy” it. Opponents of that provision in the law, which bars tax-exempt nonprofit organizations including houses of worship from engaging in electoral politics, argue that it should be repealed because it restricts First Amendment rights. No so, say Tyler and Saperstein:
We don’t believe the claims that changing the law is required by free-speech or religious-liberty principles. We have devoted our careers to defending religious freedom for all and see this debate as one of tax policy, not First Amendment rights. Under current rules, clergy can speak on political and moral issues as they see fit, even during election season. In a personal capacity, without the use of church dollars, clergy have the same rights as anyone else to endorse or oppose candidates or parties — and even to run and hold public office. What they cannot do is engage in partisan election activity using a government subsidy in the form of tax exemptions and tax-deductible contributions for their houses of worship.
Read the whole thing.
Meanwhile, what will President Trump say at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast? We will all find out Thursday morning.