Written by Don Byrd

Today Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas, an address that was blasted by many as overly political. Even the denomination’s newly elected president, J.D. Greear, expressed his concern following the speech this way: “Commissioned missionaries, not political platforms, are what we do.” 

But political activity would inevitably become a greater part of every denomination and congregation if one of the Vice President’s signature proposals in the address were to become law. Echoing President Trump’s speeches to evangelical groups, Pence advocated for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a law which protects congregations from politicization by barring tax exempt entities like houses of worship from engaging in electoral politics.

If you have followed this issue, you know that members of Congress have already tried multiple times to remove that key provision, but have so far failed. However, religious liberty advocates — including the Baptist Joint Committee — have strongly opposed any change that would undermine that protection for churches and other houses of worship. Following Pence’s SBC address, BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler tweeted:

“Political leaders like would love to co-opt religious organizations. Faith leaders know the divisive harm this causes congregations. Today’s speech and reaction exemplify why faith leaders overwhelmingly support .”

Upending the Johnson Amendment would sow division in congregations and would likely divert millions into tax-free campaign contributions through religious institutions, turning our houses of worship into tools of political parties and electoral campaigns. People of faith can stand together and announce their opposition to being co-opted by politics! Add your name to a letter urging Congress to keep the Johnson Amendment intact, and learn more about this issue at Faith-Voices.org.

For more on why the Johnson Amendment is good for houses of worship, see the BJC’s resource page on the Johnson Amendment and the Community Not Candidates resource page.