Dear Editor: The Johnson Amendment of 1954 is a provision in the U.S. tax code that prevents nonprofit organizations, such as churches, from supporting or opposing political candidates. The Trump administration has the repeal of the Johnson Amendment in its tax bill. Given the loss of tax deductions in the future to the middle class and poor, it will be the wealthy that will be able to exploit churches as a source of political power.
Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United, corporations have declared personhood and have declared their money free speech. The repeal of the Johnson Amendment would make churches part of this current culture that has corrupted our entire political system with money. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Johnson Amendment maintains this balance now needed more than ever with the flow of corporate money in politics.
Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple in Jerusalem. When asked by those who wanted to entrap him in a plot, “Is it lawful to pay the temple taxes to the emperor or not?” Jesus replied, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God.”
The church is not intended to be the money changer for the emperor. The Gospel needs to engage the issues of our day that speak to God’s reign of social justice and peace. This tax bill along with the repeal of the Johnson Amendment will hurt charities and mainline churches, giving big-money evangelicals a campaign tool and tax haven. I urge all citizens to work to maintain the Johnson Amendment and to oppose this tax bill.
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