Politics and religion are not so separate
The blurred line between politics and religion has been around for some time.
Seeing politicians in the pulpit is about as normal as seeing the pastor himself, with presidents from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump mentioning their church connections in speeches. However, churches and other tax-exempt organizations are not allowed to support or outright oppose political candidates.
“When you mix religion and politics, you get politics,” said David L. Thompson, vice president of public policy for the National Council of Nonprofit Organizations.
The 1954 tax bill known as the Johnson Amendment, introduced by Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, is intended to temper how religion and politics collide. The law aims to prevent money from influencing religious institutions and prevent places of worship from becoming super PACs.
“There is a reason the auditoriums of all religious institutions are called sanctuaries, we are havens from the acrimony of partisan activity,” Thompson said. “We are the only ones who can receive tax-deductible donations. Someone who gives to a church knows that this money cannot be used for partisan activities related to the election.”
But that does not prevent believers from donating to individual candidates. According to Open Secrets, since 1990, Democrats have been the primary recipients of donations from people with a religious affiliation.
Nor does the law prevent pastors from opening their doors to political messages, such as the one who played in 300 churches ahead of the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race that read, “This is the first year you can vote on Sunday, so please vote after today’s service.”
Because it is rarely enforced, the law has not stopped religious leaders from toeing the line of approval. Yet its opponents, like former President Donald Trump, want the Johnson Amendment gone altogether, and the reason is simple: Religious leaders have been influential, causing political and societal change in the United States for centuries.
“Those who supported the king would say… ‘The Bible says Honor the King. Romans 12 says respect those in authority.’ And the other side said, “But what about Moses? Oh, you know, God wants his people to be free.’” said author John Vile.
Vile is the author of “The Bible in American Law and Politics” and he says religion has also been used to perpetuate racism and power.
“That was how it was with slavery,” Vile said. “There are passages in the Bible that seem to say, you know, leave him alone, and there are others like the Exodus story.”
But, thanks to pastors like Andrew Young, John Lewis or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement was ignited. Today, religious leaders are still marching, with dozens of fasts and prayers recently to move the needle on suffrage.
Pastor Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life, is one of them.
“It was religion that drove the civil rights movement,” Butler said. “It was religion that motivated efforts to end apartheid in South Africa.”
His Faith in Public Life group has a network of 50,000 religious leaders engaged in political issues.
“We will raise this as a faith community, mobilizing thousands of faith leaders across the country to push for their voices to be heard in the public square to ensure that voters can actually cast their ballots come midday. mandate. elections,” Butler said.
But, she says, there is a difference between Christian nationalism, the belief that the United States is a nation built by Christians for Christians, and pastors working to bring good to all.
“On January 6, Christian flags are flying high in this crowd,” Butler said. “It was extremely disturbing to me as a Christian and as a pastor to use Christian imagery to justify violence and to justify denying people their right to vote.”
Despite her dedication, the former Obama administration religious adviser says the Johnson Amendment is good for the country and for believers.
“From a faith standpoint, it’s actually idolatry to tie faith to total endorsement of something that supersedes God,” Butler said. “So as religious leaders, we want to be careful not to be beholden to any political party.”
This story was originally published by Newsy.