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Father Pavone seconds Trump’s vow to repeal Johnson Amendment

 

Priests for Life


6/28/2016

       
   
 
During Donald Trump’s address to Christian leaders last week in New York City, the presumptive GOP nominee said he would abolish the Johnson Amendment, a highly political law that prevents churches and other tax-exempt entities from "intervening" in political campaigns.
 
Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life and a longtime foe of the Johnson Amendment and the chilling effect it has had on the freedom of the Church to proclaim her teachings, said he is on board with efforts to empower clergy to become more politically active.
 
“Both when I met with Mr. Trump recently in Washington and in his remarks in New York, he said that Churches should not be afraid to speak their mind on matters related to politics. He  is correct in his claim that religious leaders are ‘petrified’ of wading into politics because they are afraid the IRS will revoke their tax-exempt status. 
 
"There are two problems here. First, the Johnson amendment itself has no Constitutional basis. And second, it is inherently vague, and the interpretation given to it by the IRS, and by many Catholic dioceses and institutions, makes things even worse. 
 
"This is a message I have been spreading for years and is a focus of my book Abolishing Abortion (Nelson Books, 2015). There is no justification for either government censorship of the Churches or self-censorship by the Churches. I wrote the book, in fact, precisely to prepare Churches for this election year and to urge them to step up to the plate, stop the self-censorship, and open their mouths.”
 
In the book, Father Pavone wrote: 
 
“If the interpretation by the IRS of an already vague amendment leaves it even more vague, the actions of the agency responsible for both its interpretation and enforcement suggest the likely outcome. After all, actions speak louder than words. When we look at the enforcement history of the IRS in reference to the Johnson Amendment we see in fact a whole lot of nothing. There simply is no meaningful, consistent enforcement. None of the words that can so easily scare people about the ‘revocation of tax-exempt status’ seem to have any real teeth in practice.
 
“Incredibly in the 60 year history of the Johnson Amendment, among the 300,000 churches in America, only one church has lost its tax-exempt status and that just for one day. And not one has lost its tax-exempt status, even for a day, because of something that was preached in the pulpit, taught in the classroom, printed in the church bulletin or distributed to the congregation. Pause for a moment to observe that fact. What so many of us are afraid of -- namely that the state is going to require our church to pay large sums of taxes as a result of its political intervention -- has never happened, not even once.”
 
Today, Father Pavone said: 
 
“Repealing the Johnson Amendment is long overdue, as Mr. Trump recognizes. Too many pastors and priests – especially many bishops of the Catholic Church – have been silent too long. Even when the truth about this weak and vague law is known, clergy continue to be afraid to wade into political waters. If we get free of this burdensome law, then Churches all across the country will be free to set their own boundaries on what they should say -- without the fear or excuse that the government is doing it for them."
   
 
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