God bless America and its new President.
Amongst asking the crowd at the National Prayer Breakfast to pray for good old Arnie, thanking his various friends and rating Pence 12/10, our dearest President Trump promised to “get rid of and totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment and enable the “representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”
Long story short, the Johnson Amendment forbids organisations that are tax-exempt from supporting or opposing any candidates for public office. Meaning that charities and churches are prohibited from endorsing candidates on behalf of their respective institutions – if they do not want to lose their tax exemption. Thus, clergy members are still free to voice their opinion on political issues. In actual fact, the Amendment is applied to all religious groups, not just Christians. However, I’m going to tackle this from the Christian perspective since the majority of Americans (70.6%) declare themselves as the latter.
Why is this such a bad thing?
Trump himself took the oath of office on not one, but two Bibles. In The Star Spangled Banner – the American National Anthem – there is a line that goes “And this be our motto:“In God is our trust”.” We refer to religious values – if not a religious figure – daily. Our morals and values predominantly derive from statements in the Bible, Quran or the Torah to mention a few. We live in a society where we believe that everyone has a right to express themselves freely. Then why don’t we apply this to religious groups?
I personally agree with the abolishment of the Amendment; chiefly because these religious groups and charities will be able to sponsor – if I may use this term – the candidates which would result in less back-end dealing and sneaking about in the long run. Obviously, there will always be some form of corruption and misuse of this religious freedom of speech in politics but that’s beside the point I want to make.
On a darker note, we would be able to see where organisations stand i.e. which political party they support. Politics is not personal, it’s never been. Fair enough, voting is – or at least it should be – absolutely confidential. Other than that, we are exposed to different views all day long. From the newspapers we read, to the TV channel we watch and the most irksome of all: when people shove into our faces whose partisans they are, debating in their favour. Celebrities, for example, openly promote candidates. Why are we so hypocritical? Why wouldn’t we let the Church act the same way? After all, they’re just people with an opinion wearing cassocks instead of Gucci or Prada…
Quoting Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “when a society loses its religion it tends not to last very long thereafter. It discovers that having severed the ropes that moor its morality to something transcendent, all it has left is relativism, and relativism is incapable of defending anything, including itself.”
Many would argue that revoking the Amendment could bring the Church and the State closer together. If you read into it, there is no constitutional separation in the First Amendment; indeed, the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in it.
Let the man do his thing and judge at the end. After all, this is one of his many campaign promises, four of which have for purpose to strengthen religious freedom.
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