A year ago, when Donald Trump and Mike Pence were elected to the highest offices in the land, Americans United warned of the many threats this administration posed to church-state separation. We promised that if any of those threats came to fruition, we would be ready to fight back and defend religious freedom.
Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee began preliminary discussion over the new tax bill, which includes language that severely weakens the Johnson Amendment, a provision of the tax code that protects the integrity of tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose candidates.
The tax bill, if passed as is, would allow churches – but not other tax-exempt organizations – to endorse political candidates if the endorsement happens during “religious services and gatherings.”
Tomorrow is election day in some parts of the country. Most political analysts are keeping a close eye on Virginia’s gubernatorial race, seeing it as a mini-referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.
But there are other interesting races as well. One of them is taking place in Douglas County, Colo., where a school board election has attracted national interest.
Last night, more than 400 people gathered at the National Geographic Society in the heart of Washington, D.C., to celebrate Executive Director Barry W. Lynn on the occasion of his retirement and mark the 70th anniversary of Americans United.
I’m a little biased, of course, but this was an awesome event. Barry was surrounded by friends, colleagues, AU members and well-wishers who saluted him for his remarkable 25 years at the helm of Americans United.
The vast majority of Americans support the Johnson Amendment – the provision in the tax code that ensures tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, do not endorse or oppose political candidates. But the leadership of the House of Representatives ignored the American people today when they released a tax-reform package that includes language that exempts houses of worship from the law.
There’s good news out of Michigan: The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to hear a case concerning the display of a cross in the town of Grand Haven. The state high court’s decision to take a pass on the matter effectively ends the controversy in a manner favorable to separation of church and state.
Americans United is following through on a promise we made when the Trump administration announced an attack on women’s health care last month: We’ve filed a federal lawsuit challenging the administration’s new regulations that allow employers and universities to use religion as an excuse to deny their staff and students health insurance coverage for birth control.
Religious Right favorite Jerry Falwell Jr. recently spoke with white nationalist propaganda website, Breitbart, and made some comments that made it clear that the Religious Right’s relationship with the Republican Party is (unsurprisingly) about political power, not religious values.
On Dec. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could have a huge impact on how our nation’s anti-discrimination laws protect the LGBTQ community, religious minorities, women and just about anyone.
No one knows what will be in the House Republicans’ tax-reform package proposal, but we will find out on Wednesday when they introduce their bill. Americans United’s main concern is that it might include language that will strip the Johnson Amendment from the tax code.