Yesterday Retired Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin took a break from disparaging gays and Muslims to rail against the Johnson Amendment. Boykin doesn’t think much of FRC’s supporters or their intellect. Neither do I but I am not asking for their money. The email is titled: “Help us restore free speech for pastors.” Its purpose is to attract donations to Family Research Council but some people might not realize that from the text. Essentially: “Send us money to repeal the Johnson Amendment.”
Boykin is possibly not the author of the propaganda spread under his name. However, irrespective of whether he or some staffer writes the missive, it does bear his signature and, therefore, he is responsible for the content. Would you allow someone to attach your name to something without prior approval? Probably not.
The Johnson Amendment isn’t actually an amendment; it is a law. It prohibits 501(c)3 organizations from engaging in politics. 501(c)3 organizations include a wide range of organizations to which donations are tax deductible. Houses of worship along with most advocacy groups are organized as 501(c)3s. The intent is not to silence pastors. The consequences of repeal are significant. The amazingly incurious Trump doesn’t care. Tony Perkins and Alliance Defending Freedom want the measure repealed and that is good enough for him.
The most immediate effect of repeal would be to make contributions to political campaigns tax deductible. This could add enormously to the deficit that GOPers are supposedly so concerned about. Perhaps of greater importance is that it would destroy what remains of campaign finance disclosure. Houses of worship do not file tax returns. They could make huge ad buys in favor of, or opposing, candidates and no one would know who financed the ads. It is Citizens United on steroids. Other 501(c)3 organizations do file returns including a list of donors but those donor lists are redacted from the information available to the public.
According to General Jerry:
For more than sixty years, government bureaucrats at the IRS have been allowed to strip any number of churches’ tax exempt statuses simply for speaking out on political matters.
That is true but blatantly misleading. The intended inference is that the IRS has stripped tax exempt status from “any number of churches.” Name one! Moreover, tax matters are not solely up to “gubmint bureaucrats.” There is a system of appeals that includes tax courts.
The next bit of the bat is even more outrageous:
Activists on the Left want to continue their six-decade-long partnership with the IRS and ensure they can continue to silence pastors on matters of life, marriage, and family values in our government.
Right. This is all some sinister conspiracy between Center for American Progress and the IRS which has often had a Republican appointee at its helm. The law has had bipartisan support for any number of years. Most, if not all, of the repeal rhetoric has come from the Christian right over the past ten to fifteen years. Obviously they see this as a political advantage.
But I tell you what. First figure out the loss of revenues and make that up with tax increases on the wealthy. Then require houses of worship to file tax returns with donor lists and then make the unredacted returns available for public inspection. I will be eager for a repeal!