(OPINION) Just days before the 2022 midterm elections, a widely touted media outlet has accused the Biden administration of not cracking down hard enough on churches. Yet critics say the law the story endorses violates the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.
On Sunday, ProPublica asserted the government has done too little to prevent Christians from violating the Johnson Amendment, a controversial 1954 tax provision that effectively prevents churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
In “Churches Are Breaking the Law by Endorsing in Elections, Experts Say. The IRS Looks the Other Way,” Jeremy Schwartz and Jessica Priest claim to have found 18 churches that violated the nearly seven-decade-old law.
In one example, a pastor called the actions of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) — who spent $10 million of taxpayer money to build a new abortion facility in Doña Ana County and said repealing virtually every limitation on abortion enshrined the “inviolable recognition of humanity and dignity” — “beyond evil” and “demonic.” In another, a pastor said demons worked through local politicians’ actions.
The Soros-funded publication seemingly boasted of the government’s longstanding intimidation of pastors and other clergy. “At one point, churches fretted over losing their tax-exempt status for even unintentional missteps,” wrote Schwartz and Priest.
“But the IRS has largely abdicated its enforcement responsibilities as churches have become more brazen.” The last several administrations had done little to enforce the law, especially President Donald Trump, who signed an executive order reiterating his support for churches’ legal free speech rights.
“Pastors should be free to preach without fear of government intrusion,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker told The Washington Stand. “The government simply has no business interfering with the internal affairs of churches, nor should it be able to threaten a church with financial penalties based on a requirement that […]
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