“The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism’ they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.”

Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas

Friday, February 03, 2017

Trump should not politicize the church

At the national prayer breakfast President Trump promised to "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment". It is a more-or-less toothless amendment that prohibits non-profits, specifically churches, from engaging in specific political speech, or risk losing tax-exempt status. 
When I heard Trump say this, the libertarian hair on my neck stood up. We don't allow doctors or lawyers to sleep with their patients/clients because as professionals they possess undue levels of trust, influence, and it could be argued, authority.

Such is the case with preachers who, as they shepherd the souls of their flock toward heaven, presume to be speaking with the authority of God himself. That process should not be political as preachers may possess undue levels of trust, influence, and authority over their congregations.

More practically, having that kind of influence over that many people potentially, opens up that preacher to outside influence from a fat donor to the missionary fund for instance.

"Tell your megachurch flock to vote for Hillary and your mission trips to Uganda will be fully funded by the Clinton Foundation." You get the picture.

To the point: I am against the allowance of the politicization of churches. And the Johnson Amendment, while archaic and ineffectual, should remain on the books as a symbolic, if nothing else, totem to remind people that not all parts of life are political.


Isaac A. Nussbaum said...

Well said, Ed. Good grief. Haven't the Jerry Falwell and the Jeremiah Wright types done enough damage? Shouldn't we make that kind of malfeasance harder to effect, rather than easier? I'm in your corner on this one, sir.

P.S. As I have said before (and will continue to say as long as the myth holds sway) it is a mistake to say that preachers are shepherding their flocks toward heaven. Heaven is nowhere promised to them or their flocks.

Ed said...

Yeah I know your position on heaven and hell, but the people in the pews every Sunday probably see it differently and are therefore susceptible to suggestions from their bodhisattva.

Isaac A. Nussbaum said...

"Yeah I know your position...."

But, Ed, it is not MY position. It is the consistent and exclusive position of the Bible. Now I understand that few people care what the Bible says and even fewer know what it says. But that does not change the fact that Christianity is a Bible-based religion. Everything we know about Christianity is contained in that one volume. If a claim is not in that book, or is contrary to that book, it isn't Christianity. And nowhere in that book is there so much as a hint that humans ever go to heaven, much less spend eternity there.

I am not here offering the Bible as proof on the subject of heaven because the Bible may turn out to be a collection of fairy tales and myths. My argument is simply that the go-to-heaven-when-you-die teaching is not Christian and no one who calls themselves a Christian should be preaching it, teaching it, or repeating it.

Your resort to the defense that most preachers teach a go-to-heaven-when-you-die gospel is a convenient but not convincing application of the Bandwagon Fallacy.

Ed said...

I'm not arguing whether there's a heaven or hell here, that's for another post. I'm simply saying that preachers may have undue political on their easy-to-manipulate flock because the flock believes he is guiding their souls toward heaven....the validity of that belief is irrelevant.

Isaac A. Nussbaum said...

I accept that.

Anonymous said...

I can't say I agree with you here Ed. Free speech is free speech. Forcing religious leaders to stifle their free speech is no better than stifling yours. I don't put an undue influence on what my pastor says from the pulpit. He is just a man who teaches what is in the bible. I don't know anyone who thinks (and this includes my pastor) he speaks for God. Churches have been a hot beds of political movements since we were a colony of England. The abolition movement was driven by Northern churches. The Civil Rights movement was driven by southern ones. As long as the government doesn't endorse one particular religion, they are not violating the establishment clause. Churches, and religious people should have the same rights to express their beliefs as any other entity.

Ed said...

Yes they should, but then they should be paying taxes if they choose to do so because then big donors to the church can dictate who the church endorses in addition to getting a tax write-off for donating to a non-profit.

Anonymous said...

I welcome you to suggest that Congress take away their tax exempt status. If you can get it through Congress, go for it. I don't like your chances. Last time I checked, Planned Parenthood was a non-profit organization exempt from taxes. Do we stifle the free speech rights of Planned Parenthood executives? Green Peace? NAACP? All tax exempt organizations. Only churches are singled out. I am a Libertarian. I hate the government manipulating the population with the tax code. We should all pay a retail sales tax and take the power away from politicians to manipulate us to do their bidding. But singling out churches and stifling their free speech rights is wrong.

Ed said...

I agree that the law has to be applied equally to all non-profit "charities", one way or the other.