Jones and Cleaver Try To Convert Churches Into Political Tools

Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Walter Jones and Emanuel Cleaver introduced H.R. 3600, a bill that would weaken campaign finance laws, sabotage the separation of church and state, and increase the federal budget deficit, all in one ill-conceived sweeping action.

H.R. 3600 would eliminate the 1954 Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment made it illegal for organizations that accept tax-exempt donations from acting as campaign organizations on behalf of candidates for public office. Under the Johnson Amendment, it remains legal for churches and charitable organizations to campaign for political candidates. They simply cannot claim tax-exempt status and do so at the same time.

religious corruption in politicsThe Johnson Amendment exists in order to prevent organizations from using government tax exemptions to funnel money into partisan political campaigns. It’s a simple way to prevent the federal government from subsidizing partisan campaigns.

It’s also a means of maintaining the separation of church and state. Churches are supposed to be religious organizations, not money laundering operations and political powerhouses.

If churches are allowed to use tax-exempt donations to fund political campaigns, then they’ll enter the same corrupt sphere that corporations currently exist in. The biggest churches will use their money to gain influence in Washington D.C., rather than to help people in need or provide religious services. Funds from the collection plate will be siphoned off into campaign coffers, so that church leaders can make friends in high places.

If H.R. 3600 succeeds, political candidates and political parties will be able to convert churches and charities into little more than campaign tools. Power brokers will be able to make donations to campaigns for political office through churches, and then to write off these campaign donations on their taxes. New corrupt relationships forged by financial transactions between churches and politicians will encourage radical schemes to increase government interference in religious matters, in order to give special advantage to well-connected preachers.

If this legislation proceeds, the government will be giving special tax breaks to reward spending on political campaigns. The new arrangement would create a virtual subsidy for political campaign activities.

This new subsidy would create a new drain on the federal budget, making deficits even higher at the same time that Medicare and education are being slashed. Social services to people in need will be reduced if H.R. 3600 is passed into law.

H.R. 3600 benefits two small groups of people: Politicians, and greedy religious leaders who want to use their churches as platforms for personal ambition. All other Americans, whether they are religious or not, will suffer.


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7 Comments on “Jones and Cleaver Try To Convert Churches Into Political Tools
  1. Preventing the free exercise meant that pastors could not be restricted in any way . President Johnsons action is in complete violation of this and can not exist by the constitution. None of the pastors are bound by it.

  2. That’s nonsense. Can pastors commit murder? Can they become cannibals? No. Pastors, and their organizations, are restricted by the same laws as everyone else. Among those laws is the law that when an organization receives tax exempt status, it cannot make political contributions. That applies to environmental organizations and hunger relief organizations as much religious organizations.

    Also, while there is individual religious freedom, religious organizations do not have the freedom to hijack the government. That’s because Congress is forbidden to commit any act to establish religion. The proposed law would do just that, AND would corrupt churches along the way.

  3. Since I run a non-profit organization my organization is prohibited from campaign speech or contributions for or against specific candidates; but my speech for or against general principals would be protected by the first amendment as is my pastor. Churchs put out voting issue pamphlets. But it seems that this proposal might swing the pendulum as far to the right as Lyndon Johnsons’ 1954 swings it to the left. What seems more appropriate would be an amendment to the current law restraining non-profits contributions to political campaigns that specifically acknowedges that pastors speech from the pulpit is still protected by the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution and is not gagged by the 1954 law even though church funds may not be contributed to political candidates campaigns.

  4. Your pastors, religious individuals, and representatives of non profit organizations are not limited by the tax law. These individuals can do whatever they want and say whatever they want to say. Nobody is limiting there ability to speak freely. Tax exempt status is not a right in this country. The constitution gives you the right to speak freely and freely practice your religion. The constitution also give congress the right to taxation. Taxation does not limit ones ability to speak freely or practice their religion.

  5. I agree. The amendment should pertain to freedom of speech and not contributions. The IRS should not be able to censure the pulpit. The law was never intended to provide for this.

  6. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    That’s the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in its entirety. You may notice on inspection that nowhere does it limit the role of the church or citizens anywhere, but it definitely limits the role of the government in the affairs of the people. The entire Bill of Rights was written with the sole reason being to limit the government’s reach into the affairs of the citizenry they are elected to govern. The ‘separation of church and state’ appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, but if you’ve ever read Thomas Jefferson’s Federalist Papers, you may have found it there. That’s where the phrase originated and even though Jefferson was not an openly religious man, he and the other founding fathers saw the need of the federal government to keep it’s nose specifically out of the business of religious institutions. The acknowledgement of any religion or the observance of religious holy days by government employees IS NOT the establishment of a religion by congressional legislative law, which is what the First Amendment prohibits. The Federal government cannot pass a law requiring a citizen to observe a specific religion, or worship a specific deity.

    H.R. 3600 will not compel anyone to do anything they do not wish to do. My opinion is that any church that uses tithes and offerings to contribute to a political campaign should be held to the same standard as a workers union, that being they are required to have written permission from a member before they are allowed to use that member’s tithes and offerings for any political campaign or political purpose. Non-adherence should result in the loss of their tax exempt status until rectified.

    Personally, I would rather have legislation enacted that limits the role of the IRS or abolishes it altogether. It is the only government agency that is currently not bound by the due process of law. They are authorized by statute to garner and collect without restraint or jurisdiction. I have a cousin who works for the IRS as a collection agent. He carries a badge and a gun on the job, which is to seize the property of folks who owe on their taxes. They can seize your property, personal affects and even arrest you without a court order or warrant. That’s what truly needs to be changed by law. Then, perhaps the IRS will be less likely to revoke the tax exempt status of a church because they don’t like what they hear coming from the pulpit.

    By the way, I voted in a federal election yesterday afternoon in a church. Is that not a violation of the separation of church and state as well? Just wondering. Nobody ever seems to get wigged out about that one, as obvious as it is.

  7. Nothing in HR 3600 prevents a pastor or any member of a congregation from exercising their free speech, including the use of the name of their affiliation.

    What the bill does is simply limit the tax exemption of churches and their non-profits, which is a form of government benefit, as are the exemptions allowed church properties by many state and local jurisdictions. Generally, church properties may not be used for business purposes, leased, etc, but are confined to the place of active worship, and immediately adjacent pastoral housing (although law varies from state to state).

    By the way our founders were men of Christian faith, but they supported vigorously the “wall of separation,” in many respects a result of the colonial experience – a mix of civil government and religion – of oppression, and of taxes in behalf of s single faith. In these early days faiths like Quakers and Catholics were not viewed as Christian – Christian meant protestant, and that term narrowly interpreted.

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