Jewish groups join letter urging Congress to resist Trump bid to allow church politicking

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — An array of Jewish organizations joined a letter from religious groups to Congress urging the preservation of a law banning tax-exempt status to faith groups that endorse candidates and parties – one that President Donald Trump says he hopes to rescind.

“Houses of worship are spaces for members of religious communities to come together, not be divided along political lines,” said the April 4 letter signed by 99 groups and addressed to the leaders of both parties in the House of Representatives and Senate, as well as to the leaders of tax-writing committees.

“Faith ought to be a source of connection and community, not division and discord,” the letter said. “The charitable sector, particularly houses of worship, should not become another cog in a political machine or another loophole in campaign finance laws.”

Trump while campaigning said he wanted to roll back the “Johnson Amendment,” named for President Lyndon Johnson, who led its passage as a Texas senator in the 1950s. Trump said the amendment restricts free speech and favors Democrats by inhibiting political support among evangelical Christians. He has repeated the pledge since assuming office.

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The law, as the letter points out, permits churches to engage with political issues and allows pastors to endorse candidates away from church settings. Its restriction is on explicit endorsements of a candidate or a party by a church.

Among the Jewish groups endorsing are the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, Bend the Arc, B’nai B’rith International, the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Jewish community relations councils in Boston and Washington, the Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish Women International, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, the Union for Reform Judaism and Women of Reform Judaism.

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