As we noted on the “Wall of Separation” yesterday, a new poll by Pew Research Center shows that Americans overwhelmingly oppose houses of worship intervening in partisan politics by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office – a whopping 77% oppose this.
In light of figures like that, we can only wonder why the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) isn’t aggressively enforcing the Johnson Amendment, the 1954 federal law that bars nonprofits, including houses of worship, from intervening in partisan political races.
Violations of the Johnson Amendment are common.
Violations of the law are, unfortunately, common. A recent in-depth report by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune news site found that violations of the Johnson Amendment occur regularly. The story opens with an incident from Frisco, Texas, where just days before a primary election, Brandon Burden of KingdomLife Church told congregants that some city council members were under demonic control.
Burden noted that he could not determine what happened at the state government in Austin but added, “But you know, what I got jurisdiction over this morning is an election coming up on Saturday. I got a candidate that God wants to win. I got a mayor that God wants to unseat. God wants to undo. God wants to shift the balance of power in our city. And I have jurisdiction over that this morning.”
And while Burden’s church leans far to the right, this is a bipartisan problem. Recently, a video has been making the rounds of Pastor Jamal Harrison Bryant of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, Ga., assailing Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker during a sermon.
It’s time for the IRS to enforce the law.
As part of the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Joe Biden earlier this year, the IRS is to receive $80 billion over the next 10 years. The money will be used in part to modernize the agency’s operations and crack down on people who dodge paying their fair share of taxes.
Here’s hoping some of that money is allocated to educating religious leaders about the Johnson Amendment and putting some teeth into enforcement. Nearly 80% of Americans want to see this law enforced. It’s time for the IRS to start doing it.