Goodbye, Johnson Amendment: Trump’s Proposed Tax Plan, Free Speech, and the Separation of Church and State

Last Thursday, a four hundred page tax plan was released, and this plan includes a lot more than merely tax regulation.

The plan includes language that frames fetuses and embryos as “unborn children”, which has the potential to threaten women’s rights to control our own bodies.

It also does away with the adoption tax credit, and makes it far more difficult for immigrant families to claim their refundable child tax credit.

I could write a whole blog post on the catastrophic consequences those choices could have on the US, but because this is a First Amendment forum, I’m going to focus on another aspect of this tax plan: embedded within these four hundred pages is the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which has been around since 1954 and has historically prevented tax exempt religious organizations from participating in politics.

Taking down the Johnson Amendment has been a priority for the Trump administration since his presidential campaign. Many conservatives are thrilled by this news, as they feel the Johnson amendment is an attack on free speech.

They have described it as “bigoted”, and claim it is a gigantic government overreach.

Others, including myself, feel that repealing this amendment gives a dangerous amount of power to religious leaders, and threatens separation of church and state, which is also guaranteed by the first amendment. It would make money given by churches to political candidates tax-deductible, which would give churches more power than nonprofit organizations. Churches would also be exempt from reporting where the money they donate to political candidates came from, which means that they could become huge campaign donors, and make the United States alarmingly theocratic.

This would also impact negatively impact religious people who may not have the same political viewpoints as leaders of their church, and who would find increased tension within their spiritual life.

One thought on “Goodbye, Johnson Amendment: Trump’s Proposed Tax Plan, Free Speech, and the Separation of Church and State

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  1. Yes- it is so important to note that threats to the First Amendment are not restricted to court cases etc, but buried within tax policy as well. Once we begin chipping away at these protections, the entire system is weakened and we are a poorer nation because of it.

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