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.
But several experts said Thursday that the effect of a repeal could be far broader, allowing churches of any political leaning to pour their financial resources into campaigns of like-minded candidates.
“It’s less about a minister speaking out from the pulpit, and more about deep church coffers,” said Beth Gazley, a professor of public affairs at Indiana University.
David Herzig, a Valparaiso University tax law professor, said repeal of the amendment has the potential to turn houses of worship “into super PACs.”