Not a lot of people know what the “Johnson Amendment” is – it isn’t an amendment to the Constitution but a change to the tax code of the United States. For a good read up on what it is and why it was implemented into the tax vode by Congress, read here.
During the 2016 election, Donald Trump has been painted as a “bigot” due to his proposals on banning the entry of certain peoples and groups to the US for security. He also has been painted by many on the left and the right as being anti-1st Amendment. We’d need to cover the so-called “Muslim Ban” in another post (hint: no, he is not talking about deporting or barring entry on all Muslims from/to the country) but the focus here is on another religious issue where Trump is right on the money: Trump is in favor of repealing the Johnson Amendment, one of the grossest violations of the 1st Amendment you can find on the books. I like the word ‘terminate’ as he refers to it in that article…its very appropriate for what needs to happen to it.
Now I get that for many Mormons, the Johnson Amendment might not be a big deal because the Church takes a neutral stance on party politics; and we never hear about the JA (admittedly for as plugged-in as I am into politics, I only learned about it when Trump started talking about it). But the Church regularly share opinions on certain proposed laws or stances that become political topics; leaders have expressed political opinions in the past (or there was Joseph Smith running for President in 1844) and members regularly express political opinions in gospel doctrine. There was also the instance of a Stake President criticizing socialism from the pulpit that generated “controversy” as one isn’t supposed to be doing such a thing by the tax law. Funny how easily that supercedes the 1st Amendment, eh?
While I’m perfectly fine with the Church not becoming the diving board platform for bishops to start launching their political careers from the pulpit, the right to free speech is a God-given liberty. People should be able to speak about politically charged topics at Church without the fear of Federal retribution. The fact that Donald Trump continues to push a repeal of the Johnson Amendment is something that Mormons in Western states really need to find out and support. Its repeal going would be a score for religious liberty and freedom of speech – you don’t get more pro-Constitution than that.