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Wayne Christopher walks through the Hurricane Harvey-damaged sanctuary of the Memorial Baptist Church in Port Arthur, Texas, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. He had attended the church for his whole life. In the weeks since Hurricane Harvey devastated Jefferson County, Texas, and as other monstrous storms pummeled Florida and Puerto Rico, some here found themselves in quiet moments pondering what has become some of the most polarizing questions in American political discourse: have human beings altered the earth so profoundly it is making bad storms more brutal? And what should we do about it now? (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The GOP's tax bill would let churches endorse political candidates



The House GOP’s tax bill issued Thursday would permit churches to endorse political candidates, according to The Hill.

The Hill on Thursday reported Thursday that the proposed change would roll back a law from the 1950s prohibiting such activities.

The idea is listed at the end of the 429-page legislation, and it has long been a major goal of leaders on the religious right.

The proposal states that churches should not lose their tax-exempt status based on remarks about political candidates made during the course of religious services.

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Supporters of altering the so-called Johnson Amendment have argued the rule violates the First Amendment.

The Johnson Amendment forbids 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in certain political activities.

President Trump vowed to repeal the measure during his 2016 election campaign, arguing that “the first thing we have to do is give our churches their voice back.”

“The Johnson Amendment has blocked our pastors from speaking their minds from their own pulpit,” he said at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. that September.

“If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach or talk about politics, they’re unable to do so, they’ll take a tremendous risk that they’ll lose their tax-exempt status.”

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Trump last February pledged to “totally destroy” the amendment at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

The Johnson Amendment allows the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to erase a church’s tax exempt status if it is deemed to be participating in a political campaign.

A group of more than 4,000 religious leaders from across the U.S., however, wrote a letter earlier this year defending the Johnson Amendment.

“Changing the law to repeal or weaken the ‘Johnson Amendment’ – the section of the tax code that prevents tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates – would harm houses of worship, which are not identified or divided by partisan lines,” the group said.

See some of Circa's past reporting on the Johnson Amendment here:

Trump wants to let churches get political. But some really don't want to.

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