Right-wing Christian Evangelical leaders are happy with the announcement, however, most Americans and pastors prefer separation of church from state.
President Trump announced during the National Prayer Breakfast that he would completely scrap the Johnson Amendment – an issue that has always been one of the core issues that has been a part of the election campaign. This 1954 amendment prohibits church leaders from endorsing or opposing political candidates and influence elections. This amendment is one of the strongest forces that separate church from state in America. If scrapped, the right-wing Christian evangelicals who have been supporting Trump will win a long-awaited victory.
Ever since the amendment was implemented, tax-exempt churches have stayed away from getting involved in political campaigns as they would lose their tax-exempt status if they did. Trump often call this as “unfair” and something against religious freedom. It was during his discussions with pastors of churches that formed his vote bank that he realized they couldn’t speak much for him as their churches would lose tax-exemption.Now, Trump has vowed to fulfill his promise, much to the joy of evangelical churches.
During the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump said that religious freedom is a sacred right; a right which is under attack everywhere. He took the occasion to vow that he would do everything in his power to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment and ensure that pastors could speak more freely without fear of any legal action taken against them.
Not all churches support this change, however. Church leaders who are against the scrapping off this amendment are of the opinion that if church leaders are officially granted this permission, it would create divisions and conflicts within the congregations. They argued that there would be political differences between the pastor and the congregation, and also between members of the congregation themselves. Clergy members also say that the amendment saves them from politicians who try to exert pressure on them to make endorsements.
Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Amanda Tyler, says that the scrapping of the amendment would bring “partisan divisions” to church pews. The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has traditionally been in support of church-state separation.
Surprisingly, most Americans – 80% – are against the idea of allowing pastors to make political endorsements. 87% Pastors said that making political endorsements from pulpits is wrong. These figures come from a research conducted by LifeWay, an evangelical polling group. However, Trump is already acting upon scrapping the Act, and has already introduced the Free Speech Fairness Act on Wednesday.