Evangelicals Most Likely To Back Trump's Johnson Amendment Repeal

Donald Trump pledged in his campaign last summer to repeal the Johnson AmendmentReuters

Evangelical Christians are the most supportive of all groups in the United States of repealing a ban on churches and other non-profit organisations engaging in political activity. 

But even among evangelicals, fewer than half believe religious institutions should be allowed to preach politics from the pulpit.

Currently, under the Johnson Amendment, non-profits risk their tax exempt status if they engage in politics, but no organisaton has ever actually been penalised in this way as yet.

According to a Morning Consult/POLITICO poll, 47 per cent of evangelical voters support allowing religious institutions to engage in political activity, while 34 per cent do not.

This compares with 54 per cent of Catholic respondents and 69 per cent of Jewish respondents who say religious institutions should not be allowed to engage in political activity.

It comes as President Donald Trump is moving forward with his plan to repeal the amendment, a provision in the US tax code that prohibits tax-exempt groups, such as churches or houses of worship, from engaging in political activity. Specifically, it prohibits such activities in election campaigns. 

More than 2,000 people were polled in the survey and were asked: 'Do you think tax exempt groups, such as churches or houses of worship should be allowed to engage in political activity?'

Forty per cent of evangelical voters said churches should be allowed to endorse political candidates – a higher percentage than all other religious groups surveyed, and 41 per cent said endorsements should not be allowed.

Overall, fewer than three in 10 Americans supported this repeal.

More than half of voters said churches should not endorse candidates for elected office or be allowed to engage in political activity. 

President Donald Trump pledged to repeal the amendment at a key meeting with evangelical leaders last summer, and repeated this pledge at the National Prayer Breakfast.

According to Morning Consult, 'Repealing the Johnson Amendment could be a heavy lift on Capitol Hill. While it energises evangelicals in the Republican Party's base, it roils campaign finance transparency advocates who say such a move would let money flow into politics from nonprofits.'

Politico reports on a draft executive order that says the Treasury Department will not deny tax benefits 'to any person, synagogue, house of worship, or other religious organization ... speaking on moral or political issues from a religious perspective.' Politico also says there is tax legislation later this year that could be a vehicle for a Johnson Amendment repeal.

Reuters has analysed the case for overturning the Johnson Amendment, reporting that it would guarantee 'a pastor's right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing government retribution' but could also 'turn America's houses of worship into miniature political action committees'. 

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