President-elect Donald J. Trump campaigned in part on a vow to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a federal law that bars tax-exempt groups, including houses of worship, from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates.
It’s been two weeks since Donald J. Trump was elected president, and his appointments and prospective picks for his administration thus far have been horrendous for church-state separation.
When Americans United Faith Organizer Bill Mefford road-tripped to North Carolina recently to speak at churches for a series of workshops on religion and politics, he knew bridging the gap between faith leaders and church-state separation would be an opportunity.
“The heart of all justice work is relationships,” Mefford said, and indeed, building relationships became thematic throughout his Sept. 19-23 trip.
It seems in recent years that whenever churches break the federal law prohibiting houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) non-profits from endorsing or opposing candidates, the Internal Revenue Service treats those violations with a shrug. And with all the talk this election season about repealing that anti-politicking law, Americans United felt it necessary to ask the IRS what it plans to do going forward to enforce a law that is good for both democracy and faith.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) had a major ethics lapse recently when he advised clergy to break the law.
In an address to a group of pastors at the governor’s mansion, Bevin told them that even though the federal tax code prohibits houses of worship (and other 501(c)(3) organizations) from endorsing or opposing candidates for office, the Internal Revenue Service is just a “paper tiger” so there’s nothing to worry about.
As we mentioned earlier today on this blog, yesterday was “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an annual event during which Religious Right groups try to persuade religious leaders to break federal law by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.
A Texas church is upset that it had to pay more than $400,000 as part of a lawsuit challenging some partisan political activity it undertook several years ago.
In a recent letter to the El Paso Times, Bishop Tom Brown disclosed that his organization, Word of Life Church, paid former El Paso Mayor John Cook $418,750 after Brown led an allegedly unlawful effort to remove then-Mayor Cook and two other then-city officials from office because they helped pass an LGBTQ rights law.
Americans United in September mailed letters to 100,000 houses of worship nationwide, reminding religious leaders that it is a violation of federal law if they use church resources to endorse or oppose candidates for office this election season.
In the letter, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn explained what houses of worship can and can’t do when it comes to political activity.
By The Rev. Dr. Rollin O. Russell
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has been telling audiences for months now that he wants to abolish the federal law that says non-profit, tax-exempt organizations can’t engage in partisan political activity by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.