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Why Many Christians Are Calling for a Full Repeal of the Johnson Amendment

05-08-2017
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WASHINGTON The early word on President Donald Trump's religious freedom executive order is that it doesn't go far enough. 

Many Christians want a full repeal of the Johnson Amendment in order to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from going after non-profit organizations and churches.

For it to go away, Congress will need to make it happen. 

The 1954 amendment was the brainchild of then Sen. Lyndon Johnson. It prohibits registered 501(c)(3) organizations from participating in political campaigns and endorsing candidates at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status.

Critics say the measure's true power lies in its ability to take away free speech, a gag rule of sorts.

"The IRS used the Johnson Amendment as a gateway to attack our organization and then colluded with other agencies to keep us silent for about three years," said Catherine Engelbrecht, who runs the non-profit, True The Vote.

She adds that since her organization went non-profit, she was targeted not just by the IRS, but by other agencies as well.

"They came after us with the IRS, with FBI, with OSHA, with the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms – all asking questions about our public and private life, while asking for all the tweets I tweeted, all the Facebook postings I posted, all of the written speeches I'd given since the inception of the organization and what I was to give for the next two years," Engelbrecht said.

The Family Research Council also opposes the amendment.

"Pastors and churches should be able to speak about whatever the tenants of their faith direct them to speak about," Mandi Ancalle, general counsel for government affairs at the FRC, told CBN News.

"The government shouldn't be trying to protect churches from being divisive; rather the government should stay out of the church's affairs," she said.

Supporters of the amendment say it protects religious freedom the way it is. They add that it keeps transparency in the country's campaign financing system.

Given presidential backing and total GOP control of Congress, the Johnson Amendment's days could be numbered. If it is amended or repealed it would be historic.

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