WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump told thousands of faith leaders he would destroy a law that keeps pastors from speaking politically from the pulpit.
“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. I will do that, remember,” he promised at the annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday.
The Johnson Amendment was created in 1954 by then Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. It limits the free speech of pastors, essentially threatening to take away a church or non-profit's tax-exempt status for endorsing or opposing a political candidate.
“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, ‘The God who gave us life, gave us liberty,’" Trump said. "Jefferson asked, ‘Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?’ Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs.”
In an exclusive interview with CBN’s David Brody last week, the president also reiterated his commitment to repealing the Johnson Amendment.
“Oh, it’s a priority. Absolutely,” he told Brody and called it “a disaster for religion.”
The president is making good on one of his cornerstone campaign promises to evangelicals. In August, he went on the record with CBN’s Jenna Browder.
“Free speech is being taken away from people who are saying good things, not bad things," Trump said. "And if I can do that, I will have done a great thing for religion as a whole, and it’s so important to me.”
There’s already an effort underway in Congress to restore political speech to America’s pulpits. The Free Speech Fairness Act would restrict the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment but not get rid of it entirely.