Would the Johnson Amendment Have Stopped the War for Independence and the Abolitionist Movement?

250px-First_Baptist_Meetinghouse,_Providence,_RIHad the Johnson Amendment been in effect prior to 1954, the American War for Independence and the abolitionist movement may have never happened.

The Johnson Amendment to the federal tax code prohibits nonprofit, tax-exempt entities from participating in, or intervening in, “any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” This prohibition includes “the publishing or distributing of statements” on behalf of candidates, legislation, or political parties.

The amendment was originally proposed by Texas Senator (and future President) Lyndon B. Johnson to silence and retaliate against the nonprofit political organizations that had been created to support his primary opponent. It was passed in 1954 by a unanimous voice vote without debate.

Although Congress never intended to include churches in the prohibition, “the I.R.S. has steadfastly maintained that any speech by churches that the IRS could construe as supporting or opposing candidates for government office, including sermons from the pulpit, can result in loss of tax exemption,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Johnson Amendment has had a chilling effect on American churches. Radical atheist organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have mounted public relations campaigns to intimidate churches and pastors. Not only do they spread misinformation about what churches and pastors can/cannot do regarding political involvement, but they have also reported to the IRS those churches who refused to remain silent about issues relating to government.

However, American pulpits have not always been censored by the federal government. Before the enactment of the Johnson Amendment, churches and pastors used their moral authority to speak prophetically to members and the culture about political issues.

From colonial times until the twentieth century, American churches often used their trusted social position to proclaim the Bible’s truth about issues being debated in public.

For example, pastors would frequently endorse or oppose specific candidates for public office, and they shared with their congregations whether a piece of legislation or a candidate’s positions were compatible with biblical principles. Pastors also commonly preached “Election Sermons,” which were given in the audience of public officials to exhort them to govern according to God’s truth and design for society.

Recognizing that a faithful exposition of God’s Word demanded that they preach about political issues, churches and pastors spoke into the civil arena and helped shape the American political debate for centuries. Perhaps this is no more apparent than the indispensable role churches played in the War for Independence, the abolition movement, and early civil rights movements.

John Adams, himself a central figure in the independence movement and the early republic, pointed to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mayhew as having had a “great influence in the commencement” of the American War for Independence. Like many of his contemporaries, Mayhew preached and published sermons that seemed to “revive… animosity against tyranny in church and state.”

It was in church that early Americans learned of their inalienable rights and the proper jurisdiction and role of civil government. According to Adams, the Spirit of 1776 ripened, in part, because “the pulpits thundered!”

Leading up to the Civil War, churches also played a key role in the movement to abolish slavery. Quakers, Wesleyans, American Baptists, Congregationalists, and some Methodists stridently opposed the peculiar institution and mobilized political and social efforts against it, with their churches serving as the center of the action. Churches comprised many of the stops along the “Underground Railroad,” offering their sanctuaries as hiding places for those escaping slavery.

It is no wonder that the abolition of slavery came on the heels of the Second Great Awakening, an Evangelical religious revival during the early nineteenth century that stressed the importance of a personal relationship with Christ and propelled efforts to reform society according to biblical precepts.

Imagine if the Johnson Amendment had been around during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Would American churches have assumed their role as agents of social change in the movements for independence, abolition, and civil rights if their free speech had been muzzled by the federal government?

Churches and pastors have a biblical obligation to share biblical positions on political issues with their members and their communities. Throughout this nation’s history, churches have acted as champions of justice.

Although President Trump campaigned on “totally destroying” the Johnson Amendment, his religious liberty executive order last month failed to make any substantive changes to IRS policy. The ACLU called the executive order a “faux sop to religious conservatives” and an “elaborate photo-op” that “does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process.”

It is time to stop censoring the constitutionally protected religious speech of American pulpits. Pastors who preach and uphold the entirety of the Bible should no longer have to fear the IRS. Congress should not wait any longer to begin the process of repealing the Johnson Amendment.


This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


 

What Would Life for Christians Look Like Under a Clinton Presidency?

hillaryclintonwikileaks_c0-120-3829-2352_s885x516During the second presidential debate, Gorbah Hamed, a Muslim woman, asked Donald Trump to address her fears about living as a Muslim in the United States following the presidential election.

This isn’t the first time the media has asked questions about what life for Muslims would look like under a Trump presidency, and rightly so. Ever since Trump infamously proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, journalists have been eagerly raising questions about whether the Republican nominee is a closeted Islamophobe, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to deny Muslims their constitutional rights.

Ironically (or not, depending on your opinions about the news media), I haven’t yet heard journalists ask an analogous question of Secretary Clinton: What would life for Christians look like under a Clinton presidency?

What reasons has Mrs. Clinton given for Christians to be so concerned about their constitutional right to live according to the precepts of their faith and the dictates of their consciences?

First, Clinton supports coercive non-discrimination statutes that trample upon the consciences of religious organizations and Christian business owners.

In remarks made to an event hosted by the militantly anti-Christian Human Rights Campaign, Clinton voicedher support for the Federal Equality Act. Critics warn that the Federal Equality Act would dismantle the essential pillars of religious liberty protections by amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

If signed by President Clinton, the Federal Equality Act could be used to compel Christian colleges to allow transgender biological males to live in female dorms. Likewise, Christian ministries should expect penalties if they refuse to employ practicing homosexuals. And Catholic adoption agencies could lose their licenses to operate if they follow their Church’s teaching by refusing to provide their services to same-sex couples. (Catholic adoption agencies have already stopped operating in both Massachusetts and Illinois because of similar state non-discrimination laws – an unfortunate development for the tens of thousands of children waiting to be adopted every year).

Mrs. Clinton also decried the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows Christian-owned companies like Hobby Lobby to refrain from providing abortifacients to employees. She called the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the business owners’ right of conscience “deeply disturbing.”

Under a Clinton administration, religious organizations and Christian business owners who don’t agree with the federal government’s revolutionary legal assaults on life, marriage, and gender should anticipate being given two options: repudiate the doctrines of your faith or expect the fist of government to squash you.

Second, consider Hillary Clinton’s comments at the 2015 Women in the World Summit regarding abortion. In her keynote address, she expressed her regret that too many women are “denied” reproductive healthcare and expressly stated that “deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

Christians find Clinton’s radical positions on abortion even more frightening when they realize that the Progressive Left, which is financing Clinton’s candidacy, supports using the federal government to force Christian doctors and hospitals to provide abortions, violating the most sacred human right protected by the First Amendment.

Third, Mrs. Clinton would nominate far-left judges who share her vision to limit the constitutional rights of Christians. The battle for religious liberty will be fought in court – and if Hillary Clinton is able to nominate judges of her choosing, that battle for religious liberty will be lost.

Christians have a lot to fear from a Clinton administration concerning their rights. Mrs. Clinton has made it clear that she’s not going to respect the constitutional protections of religious liberty, freedom of conscience, free speech, free association, and liberty of contract.

The mainstream media’s silence about Mrs. Clinton’s hostility toward the rights of Christians is revealing. Muslims are justifiably concerned about Mr. Trump rising to our nation’s highest office, and it is appropriate for the media to share those concerns with the public. So, too, are Christians justifiably concerned about Mrs. Clinton winning the election – but their concerns are being dismissed and buried by journalists with a political agenda.


This op-ed was originally published by Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Attorneys General Attack Free Speech

maxresdefaultAfter months of political posturing, the targeted attack by several attorneys general against the free speech and free association rights of public policy organizations and private companies has ended. But the fight to preserve free speech rights is not over.

In March, attorneys general from fifteen states, including Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, joined with attorneys general from the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands to punish organizations that they claim have spread misinformation about the existence and consequences of global warming.

Known as Attorneys General United For Clean Power, the group is “dedicated to coming up with creative ways to enforce laws being flouted by the fossil fuels industry and their allies in their short-sighted efforts to put profits above the interests of the American people and the integrity of our financial markets,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the coalition’s inauguratory press conference, in which the attorneys general were joined by climate change propagandist and former Vice President Al Gore.

The group blames man-caused climate change for more violent storms and receding ice shelves in the Arctic, despite studies from reputable scientists that climate change is not causing extreme weather and that the polar ice caps have not receded since 1979, the first year NASA satellite data was collected.

“We have heard the scientists,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “There is no dispute [about global warming], but there is confusion – confusion sown by those with an interest in profiting from the confusion and creating misconceptions in the eyes of the American public.”

Shortly after the formation of the coalition, U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker served subpoenas on Exxon and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank that does climate research.  It has published studies critical of climate change.

The subpoena demanded ten years of the think tank’s communications, research, and, perhaps most worrisomely, donor information. CEI President Kent Lassman called the subpoena a “baseless fishing expedition” and a “flagrant violation” of the First Amendment.

Thankfully, Attorney General Walker recently withdrew his subpoenas. CEI is seeking court-imposed sanctions against the attorney general.

Many are concerned that the inquisition mounted against certain political ideologies will create a chilling effect on public policy organizations. It is likely that think tanks, academics, and policymakers will now think twice before conducting research and publishing studies and policy recommendations that contradict politically correct narratives.

There is little disagreement among legal scholars that research published by think tanks is constitutionally protected speech. The free exchange of ideas that is promoted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is necessary for the health of our constitutional republic. The use of persuasion in open public discourse allows for the best ideas to supersede bad ideas.

Despite an entire apparatus of schools and media outlets that disseminate global warming propaganda, climate alarmists are losing the debate in the public square. A minority of Americans believe the government should be doing more to mitigate climate change, and the number of Americans who believe climate change is a serious problem is declining.

Not content with using persuasion to win arguments, Attorneys General United for Clean Power decided to use the force of law to criminalize the viewpoints of their political opponents.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is well-acquainted with using the force of law to subdue those with whom he disagrees. Ferguson has been embroiled in a legal battle with Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who declined to provide her creative services for a same-sex wedding ceremony. He also filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit against an Olympia pharmacy that declined to dispense abortifacients because of their religious convictions.

“While Ferguson may be sincerely concerned about climate change, the idea of the attorney general filing lawsuits against people who have different perspectives is highly problematic,” said FPIW’s Executive Director Joseph Backholm. “We should all be concerned about the instinct of our elected officials to say there is only one, absolute, infallible position on these issues that is above critique.”

It remains to be seen what will be the next steps of Attorneys General United for Clean Power.  Though Competitive Enterprise Institute and Exxon won the first battle, the attorneys general have now paved the way for using the legal system to silence people with opposing views. That should be concerning to every American who values our fundamental rights and the free exchange of ideas.

The post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/07/11/washington-ag-bob-ferguson-joins-effort-to-punish-freedoms-of-thought-speech/.