Republican candidate Donald Trump pledged at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., to repeal the Johnson Amendment.
“We’re gonna get rid of it,” Trump said.
“I figure it’s the only way I’ll get into heaven,” he quipped.
The Johnson Amendment is a circa 1954 amendment to the U.S. tax code that blocked tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Evangelicals and other people of faith object to the law because it prevents churches — along with other tax-exempt institutions — from political organizing.
“All section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” according to the IRS website. “Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”
This isn’t the first time on the campaign trail Trump has vowed to dump the law. The campaign was pushing the idea during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
“They understand the importance of religious organizations and nonprofits, but religious organizations in particular which is what the Johnson Amendment affects, to have the ability to speak freely, and that they should not live in fear of the IRS,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said previously. “That is a priority in the platform, and from the Trump folks, it is a priority of the campaign, and will be a priority of the administration.” (Family Research Council is the principal sponsor of the Values Voter Summit which is held annually.)
Most groups on the Left don’t want the Johnson Amendment rescinded. Left-wingers claim that Republicans wants to make churches the new super PACs.
America is “in serious, serious trouble,” Trump also said. “Our media culture often mocks and demeans people of faith,” whose “values of love, charity and faith built this nation.”
(Note: This post was updated several times.)