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4,000 Church Leaders Ask Congress To Maintain Church-State Separation

August 18, 2017

A letter written to Congress pressuring them to maintain the Johnson Amendment has gotten signatures from over 4,000 religious leaders.

 

The Johnson Amendment prohibits nonprofit groups, like churches, from endorsing political candidates. After making promises during his campaign to kill the Johnson Amendment, Donald Trump signed an executive order in early May that was supposed to make it easier for churches to participate in politics. Many conservatives, however, felt that the order was not far-reaching enough to make the kinds of changes that they sought.

 

Some lawmakers began an effort to further attack the Johnson Amendment last month. A spending bill that was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on July 13th included language that would make it much more difficult for the IRS to investigate any church that violates the Johnson Amendment.

 

On Wednesday this week, a letter from over 4,000 religious leaders who support strong church-state separation was delivered to Congress. The letter implores Congress to avoid doing anything to weaken the law. The religious leaders tell Congress that “changing the law would threaten the integrity and independence of houses of worship” and that the “current law protects houses of worship from becoming centers of partisan politics.”

Clergy and lay members from many faiths signed the letter; from Catholics, to Muslims, to Jews, to Unitarians, and more.

 

The spending bill that contains the language in question needs to be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate before being put before President Trump to be signed into law. While I am unsure of what kind of support the measure has in Congress, I am sure that Trump will sign whatever is put in front of him.

 

Hopefully enough push-back can be mustered to change the wording of the bill. We have already been seeing too many stories of religion and government mixing in distressing ways in the United States recently. We need a stronger separation of church and state, not a weaker one. Maybe if more religious people like these can get on-board with that, and lend their voices to the argument, we can convince more politicians.

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