(Capital Research Center) Donald Trump has promised plenty this election cycle: Economic growth, border security, and a stronger America abroad. But one of his campaign promises escapes mainstream media coverage, despite its broad implications.
The Republican front runner vows to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a little-known yet politically powerful law adored by the Left and scorned by many conservatives. “An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions,” Trump claimed at the Republican National Convention in July. “I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans.” He echoed that sentiment at the Value Voters Summit in September: “We’re going to get rid of that law, and it’s going to get rid of—we’re going to get rid of it so fast.”
But what exactly is the Johnson Amendment? Proposed by then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson (D-TX) and passed by Congress in 1954, the law prohibits tax-exempt organizations—including churches and other nonprofits—from lobbying elected officials, campaigning on behalf of a political party, and supporting or opposing candidates for office. Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code bestows tax-exempt status upon nonprofit groups as long as they don’t “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for office.” (The “in opposition to” clause was added in 1986.)
The Johnson Amendment is now applied most scrupulously to churches and faith-based organizations, which are barred from translating their community organizing into political activism of any kind. A Southern Baptist congregation opposed to abortion, for example, is prohibited from explicitly supporting a pro-life Republican running for Congress solely because of the church’s nonprofit status.
Through the Johnson Amendment, the Internal Revenue Service exercises the power to stifle a religious organization’s right to free speech….