- U.S. Congress archives
- Lyndon Johnson's amendment outlaws politicking by 501(c)(3)s
At least that’s what Donald Trump, the Republican Party and a devious group of right-wing political pastors are saying. And, of course, they’ve got a diabolical fix for this “problem.” Their scheme is to turn tax-exempt, far-right churches into gushing sewers of political money, secretly channeling unlimited amounts of cash from corporations and right-wing extremists through the churches into the campaigns of politicians who’ll do their bidding.
They don’t admit this, of course, instead wrapping their scheme in the pious rhetoric of religious freedom. Their point of attack is the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law passed by Sen. Lyndon Johnson that prohibits tax-exempt charities, including churches, from endorsing candidates, funding campaigns and directly engaging in politics. The Alliance Defending Freedom, an extremist Christian operation pushing repeal of Johnson’s amendment, asserts that banning churches from overt political campaigning lets the IRS “tell pastors what they can and cannot preach.”
Clever, but totally dishonest. First, the issue is not whether the government can tell church groups what to say (it can’t) — but whether taxpayers should subsidize a church group’s electioneering views and activities.
Second (and most diabolical), repealing the Johnson ban would turn these churches into Holy Temples of Dark Money. Special-interest funders would rush to these political “charities,” not only because the churches would be super-secret SuperPACs — but churches are tax-exempt, meaning the donors would also be blessed with a tax deduction for their corrupting campaign contributions!
Taxpayers would be underwriting the corruption of American politics. How ungodly is that?
You can contact Hightower at jimhightower.com.