In a first step out on political reform (setting aside his executive order on lobbying), Donald Trump promised churches he would relieve them of the restrictions of the Johnson amendment on campaign activity. He didn’t go into any detail. But over time there have been different proposals for protecting religious institutions’ political speech. One of them is arguably sensible, while another, more aggressive reform of this nature is best avoided. Attention began to turn more widely to this topic when in the Bush 43 years there was a suggestion that IRS was monitoring sermons and prepared to act against churches where it found campaign content in speech from the pulpit. A notorious case involved a sermon that was critical of the war in Iraq and included favorable comments about Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and critical ones of his opponent George W. Bush. Nothing happened; the IRS backed off. But it remains the case that while the Service seems to have no particular appetite for regulatory action based on this kind of speech, it could, if it wished. And as the Bush/Kerry episode revealed, the issue can cut in either partisan or ideological direction.
National: Trump vows to ‘totally destroy’ restrictions on churches’ support of candidates | The Washington Post
President Trump vowed Thursday to “totally destroy” a law passed more than 60 years ago that bans tax-exempt churches from supporting political candidates, a nod to the religious right that helped sweep him into office. Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Trump said he would seek to overturn the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt nonprofits — including churches and other houses of worship — from “directly or indirectly” participating in a political candidate’s campaign. Repeal of the amendment — which is part of the tax code and would require action by Congress — has been sought primarily by conservative Christian leaders, who argue that it is used selectively to keep them for speaking out freely.