Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Trump vows to repeal political limits on churches

Published:Friday | February 3, 2017 | 2:00 AM
President Donald Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday.

WASHINGTON (AP):

Declaring that religious freedom is "under threat," President Donald Trump vowed yesterday to repeal a rarely enforced IRS rule that says pastors who endorse candidates from the pulpit risk losing their tax-exempt status.

"I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution," Trump said during remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, a high-profile event bringing together faith leaders, politicians and dignitaries.

Trump also defended his recent executive order on immigration, decrying "generous" immigration policies and arguing that there are people who seek to enter the country "for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith." He also pledged to take more immigration action in the name of religious liberty.

"In the coming days we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination," Trump said.

NO REAL PLAN

He did not detail how he might scrap the IRS rule, which he has previously pledged to do away with. The rule, named after then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, has been in place since 1954, but it is very rare for a church to actually be penalised. And while some conservative Christians would like to see it abolished, others, especially the younger generation, support a clear separation of church and politics.

Repeal does not appear to have widespread public support. Eight in 10 Americans said it was inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church in a poll released last September by Lifeway Research, a religious survey firm based in Nashville.