Johnson Amendment Repeal Would Destroy U.S. Religion by Luke Perry
This letter was originally published by the The New York Times on February 3, 2017.
To the Editor:
Re “President Pledges to Let Politics Return to Pulpits” (front page, Feb. 3):
The repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates, would be a devastating blow to American religion, which flourishes because state governments ended colonial norms of religious establishment.
Religious freedom is hurt, not helped, by more direct entanglement of religious leaders in the political process. America is much more religious than Europe because political and religious power was fused there for so long. When people tired of monarchs, and demanded new governments, they tired of religious leaders, and lost faith.
The desire for repeal comes from white evangelicals who after Roe v. Wade shifted from avoiding politics because it was corrupt to building themselves into a powerful political force. They now want their religious organizations to conduct political advocacy. This freedom already exists. They just need to revoke their religiously based tax-exempt status so society doesn’t subsidize this advocacy through tax breaks.
Like most things, this is about power and money, not principle. President Trump is perhaps the least religious president in American history. He doesn’t understand how greed will destroy religious vitality, the very thing his supporters hold dear.
The writer is chairman of the department of government and politics and an associate professor at Utica College