Jan 23, 2015

The doomed bill to repeal a law that keeps churches out of politics

One of the first things North Carolina congressmen Walter Jones, Jr. did on the very first day of the 114th US Congress was file House Resolution 153. The bill would repeal a law that keeps churches out of politics. Pastors would be permitted to endorse political candidates even from the pulpit.

Probably this will come to nothing.

The non-partisan GovTrack, an open government data site, puts the likelihood of HR 153 becoming a law at zero percent. This bill will never come to a vote, probably, disappearing into the Ways and Means committee never to be heard from again.

The question is: why aren’t Republicans supporting it?

Religious conservatives are rallying around religious liberty issues, including the rights of churches to get involved in politics. In October, when a legal dispute over a petition to repeal a non-discrimination ordinance in Houston led a city lawyer to subpoena records from the churches that had organized the petition, religious conservatives went ballistic. That was a unique situation. The Johnson Amendment applies much more broadly, restricting the political activity of every church that takes a tax exemption. (Which is almost all of them).

For people fired up about government infringement on religious liberty, HR 153 would seem like a winner.

Read the full essay at Religion Dispatches: Why Don't Republicans Want to Allow Pastors to Endorse from the Pulpit?