Letter to the Editor: June 14, 2017

Upholding the Johnson Amendment

Regarding the Jewish Light’s May 17 editorial, “Religion and Politics Still Don’t Mix,” I can only hope that President Donald Trump’s recent executive order aimed at easing an IRS rule limiting political activities for religious organizations will be declared unconstitutional by the courts.

This executive order was in clear violation of the Johnson Amendment of 1954, named for then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson, which barred electioneering and outright political endorsements from the pulpit in all houses of worship, and risked loss of tax-exempt status if violated.

However, the Johnson Amendment did not prohibit members of the clergy from exercising their free speech regarding political advocacy outside houses of worship, but only inside such venues, when speaking from the pulpit.

That Trump somehow felt that freedom of speech by priests, ministers, rabbis and imams was being abridged is totally absurd and without merit. 

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I couldn’t have agreed more with the editorial that, it was obvious that Trump’s action was self-serving, as, no doubt, he was trying to ingratiate himself with the GOP’s conservative base.

That said, the Jeffersonian principle of the separation between church and state has always been a staple of our pluralistic society. Unfortunately, Trump, to his detriment, has chosen to ignore this basic tenet.

Gene Carton