By Hemant Mehta
Last month, Donald Trump signed an executive order supposedly weakened the Johnson Amendment. That’s the part of the law that says tax-exempt organizations, like churches, cannot endorse candidates from the pulpit. Nor can the ACLU, for example, tell members to vote for a Democrat. They can all talk about social issues and “sin,” but they can’t cross the line into telling their members who to vote for.
The Religious Right hates that amendment. They say it violates their freedom of speech, and they’ve been trying to get it repealed for years. Trump said he would do just that if elected. And it’s no doubt part of the reason evangelicals overwhelmingly supported him.
Yet his executive order didn’t quite go so far as a repeal, in part because Trump didn’t have the authority to do that. He merely told the IRS that it was okay to not go after churches that violated the rules of their tax exemptions. They weren’t going to be punished for looking the other way.
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