In America’s colonial days, the vast majority of news, especially political news, was told to the people from the pulpits of churches throughout the colonies. Pastors spoke about the British tyranny and spread the news about the war to gain independence from Great Britain. The clergy of the day were often referred to as the ‘black regiment’ because of the black robes they wore in the pulpit.
One Lutheran pastor, John Muhlenberg took the pulpit one day wearing his black ministerial robe and told him congregation:
“The Bible tells us there is a time for all things and there is a time to preach and a time to pray but the time for me to preach has passed away, and there is a time to fight, and that time has come now. Now is the time to fight! Call for recruits! Sound the drums!”
He took off his robe to reveal the uniform of a Virginia Colonel. He picked up his musket, put on his colonel’s hat and marched to the doors at the back of the church. Over 90% of the men at that church joined him as they marched off to help win America’s freedom.
In the early days of United States, many politicians did their campaigning going from pulpit to pulpit. Some of our Founding Fathers were church leaders. The Christian church and church leaders have played a very important and influential part in the formation and growth of America.
In the early 1900s, liberal progressives began to make their voices heard and sought to change the nation towards their socialistic views. However, many pastors and ministers spoke out against them and the people listened.
For this reason, liberal progressive Democrats sought to silence the church and church leaders in matters of politics. Since so many Americans listened to their pastors, being able to silence the pastors on political matters became a necessity if the liberal progressives were ever going to gain control of America.
In 1954, then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, a stalwart among liberal progressive Democrats, pushed through an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code that restricted any organization that was a non-profit under the 510(c)(3) tax code from engaging in any political activities. Since most churches are 501(c)(3) non-profits, the so-called Johnson Amendment effectively shut them up and prevented pastors in pulpit across the land from speaking out about anything political. If they were caught, there were subject of losing their non-profit tax exempt status.
For years, liberals have wielded the Johnson Amendment around like a big club, threatening to beat the taxes out of any church whose pastor dared opened their mouth against any Democrat.
Conservatives have argued that the Johnson Amendment is a violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and speech.
On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. During his address to those gathered, Trump vowed:
“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.”
Repeating the promises he made during his presidential campaign, Trump said he opposed the Johnson Amendment because it impinges on the American ‘right to worship according to our own beliefs. Trump went on to tell the crowd:
“I think maybe that will be my greatest contribution to Christianity — and other religions — is to allow you, when you talk religious liberty, to go and speak openly, and if you like somebody or want somebody to represent you, you should have the right to do it. You don’t have any religious freedom, if you think about it.”
Technically, the Johnson Amendment is a form of religious discrimination since anyone else in any other profession is allowed to speak openly about political matters but pastors are not. Hopefully, Trump will keep this promise like he’s been keeping his other promises and repeals the Johnson Amendment and restores the constitutional rights of churches and other non-profits.