Pastors in the USA have learned that church and state are separate. They have learned not to support candidates or a political party from the church or in their public ministries connected to the church. At least they are supposed to have both learned and practiced this non-support of a political candidate.
Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not 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 public office.” [Johnson Amendment]
The worst thing that has happened with the church since the 60s but especially since the 80s (under Reagan) has been the politicization and partisanization of the church.
Church cultures now exist where in a local church if you are not a Republican or a Democrat you don’t fit. This is surrendering to Caesar what belongs to God alone.
Now there is a bill underway, attached to the tax bill, that would permit churches or pastors or church leaders to identify with a political party and announce support for a political party and encourage church folks to support a political party.
H.R.172 – To restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.
To restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. REPEAL OF THE 1954 JOHNSON AMENDMENT BANNING THE FREE SPEECH AND FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF CHURCHES AND EXEMPT ORGANIZATIONS.
(a) In General.—Paragraph (3) of section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to list of exempt organizations) is amended by striking “, and which does not 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 public office”.
(b) Effective Date.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years ending after the date of the enactment of this Act.
(c) Campaign Finance Laws Unaffected.—The amendments made by this section shall not invalidate or limit any provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431 et seq.).
Second, this will prevent the non-aligned from attending and participating in churches even more. Again, the church is a space for grace and a gospel-shaped place, not a caucus for a political party. So many in our society today are sick and tired of the politicization of the church; this will make it worse for them.
Third, too many pastors are already aligned with political parties. May this Bill, which I hear is going through process for vote, awaken pastors and church folks to write to their congressional leaders and ask them not to support H.R. 172.
Fourth, there was profound wisdom in the Johnson Amendment quoted above.