This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
A fight that appears periodically about election time in the United States has been resurrected again this year – by a George Soros-supported leftist group that is demanding the IRS use the Johnson Amendment against churches.
That statute says religious groups cannot endorse or oppose election candidates, and it’s been little used because of the likelihood it violates the First Amendment.
Having the amendment to use as a threat might in many cases seem to be more attractive than using it – and having a court throw it out entirely.
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But now, according to a report at the Washington Stand, the Soros-backed ProPublica claimed that the government has “done too little to prevent Christians from violating” the 1954 rule.
That publication claimed that churches are breaking the law, according to experts. And it claimed the IRS is looking the other way.
As explained in the Stand report, “Jeremy Schwartz and Jessica Priest claim to have found 18 churches that violated the nearly seven-decade-old law. In one example, a pastor called the actions of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) — who spent $10 million of taxpayer money to build a new abortion facility in Doña Ana County and said repealing virtually every limitation on abortion enshrined the ‘inviolable recognition of humanity and dignity — ‘beyond evil’ and ‘demonic.’ In another, a pastor said demons worked through local politicians’ actions.”
The publication then “seemingly boasted of the government’s longstanding intimidation of pastors and another clergy,” with its comment, “At one point, churches fretted over losing their tax-exempt status for even unintentional missteps. But the IRS has largely abdicated its enforcement responsibilities as churches have become more brazen.”
President Trump took the opposite perspective, signing an executive order emphasizing his support for churches’ freedom of speech.
A lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, Ryan Tucker, told the Stand, “The government simply has no business interfering with the internal affairs of churches, nor should it be able to threaten a church with financial penalties based on a requirement that the church self-censor and surrender its constitutionally protected freedom.”
Lyndon Johnson, as a senator, pushed the measure “to advance his own career and stifle his political opponents,” the Stand reported.
That happened when two nonprofit groups took out ads opposing Johnson’s candidacy, and he put them in his legislative bull’s-eye, prohibiting churches from intervening in any political campaign.
The Stand said, “Experts say the bill has no constitutional grounding.”
The IRS has, in fact, investigated the issue dozens of times, and has imposed a penalty once, when a church lost its tax-exempt status for an ad saying that voting for Bill Clinton violated the Scriptures.
“Our nation’s pastors have a long and rich history of speaking into moral issues of concern to our nation — from slavery, to poverty, and all manner of other issues affecting their communities. Those seeking to stifle their voices now trifle with a necessary piece of a self-governing society,” Travis Weber, vice president for Policy and Government Affairs at the Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand.
Under the Joe Biden administration, his appointees have worked to crack down on Christian speech, arresting pro-life advocates and “collaborating with social media platforms to suppress stories that present Democratic candidates in a negative light,” the report said.