Back in 1954 a law was added to the U.S. tax code called the Johnson Amendment, named after Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson (who later was President from 1963 to 1969). In the middle of a massive tax code overhaul, Johnson slipped the amendment in to stymie the efforts of a political opponent when Johnson found out that opponent was using churches and other non-profit groups to spread “misinformation” about Johnson, even calling him a communist. Even though a church or churches were not involved, the Johnson Amendment was written to silence any organization that is under the 501(c)(3) tax code, and that includes churches and universities. The 501(c)(3) tax code allows an organization to be exempt from taxes, but any donor making contributions to such an organization may take a deduction for that donation on their own taxes. President Eisenhower signed the amendment into law on August 16, 1954; at the time the law was uncontroversial. The Reagan Administration allowed the law to stand in 1986.
According to the IRS, the Johnson Amendment says that groups or organizations under this tax code cannot make political contributions of any kind or make ANY public statements for or against any candidate for public office. Certain activities like voter education, voter registration, or get-out-to-vote drives are allowed if they are conducted in a non-partisan manner. This is still current law.
This is and has always been in direct violation of the First Amendment in more ways than one.
As it is, any pastor or church leader can be held accountable for “violation” of this law and cause their church to lose their tax-exempt status.
Jeremy Peters of the NY Times said “it is one of the brightest lines in the legal separation between religion and politics.” This has nothing to do with “separation of church and state.” It has everything to do with Freedom of Speech as provided for in the First Amendment of the Constitution. It was and is the attempt of the liberal left to silence opponents. Even though a Republican President signed it into law, and another one let it stand 32 years later, at neither time was it even remotely thought it would be used to censure pastors and churches, and neither president ever dreamed of using the IRS as a bludgeon against conservatives.
President Trump has vowed to destroy the Johnson Amendment. He recognizes it is unconstitutional. He also recognizes the importance of faith-centered influences on American Society.
The ones who oppose repealing the Johnson Amendment are not concerned about Freedom of Speech, they are concerned about money. They contend that it opens the door for uncontrolled donations to a candidates campaign, even though all candidates are required to report all donations. But, they say, donors can make political contributions through the church and get a tax deduction for doing so. Again, all candidates are required to report all donations, and most churches, if they belong to God, will not allow themselves to become laundering centers for campaign donations.
As a Shepherd of his church body a pastor should be allowed to speak for or against a candidate . But i know most pastors who are called of God are much more concerned with bringing people to Christ than they are of helping someone get elected. All Christians are called to be a part of this world while convincing others that their path is the right one, that it will lead to Eternal Hope in Christ, and not just 4 more years of political chaos.