Churches and Elections

Americans Really Don’t Want Houses Of Worship To Endorse Candidates

  Rob Boston

The Pew Research Center recently released a new poll about Americans’ views on the role religion plays in society. As usual, there’s a lot to digest, but one thing comes through loud and clear: Americans do not want houses of worship to meddle in partisan politics.

A whopping 76 percent of Americans say houses of worship should not endorse or oppose candidates during elections. This figure is in line with other polls that show strong opposition to politicized churches.

The poll also found that most Americans reject the notion that houses of worship have too little influence over politics. Only 28 percent agree with that statement, while 37 percent believe that houses of worship have too much influence, and 34 percent say that the amount of influence houses of worship have now is about right.

Results like this are important because they debunk one of President Donald Trump’s claims about the intersection of religion and politics. Trump seems to believe that Americans are clamoring for religious leaders to have the power to hand down lists of political endorsements from the pulpit. In fact, this is the last thing most Americans want. (Some polls show that opposition to pulpit politicking is even higher among certain religious leaders. )

A federal law known as the Johnson Amendment protects the integrity of houses of worship and other nonprofit groups by keeping them out of partisan politics. Under the law, tax-exempt, nonprofit groups may not intervene in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

In May 2017, Trump issued an executive order that he insists did away with the Johnson Amendment. The order did no such thing. It was mere verbiage. The Johnson Amendment is a federal law; it can’t be wiped off the books with a mere stroke of Trump’s pen.

Trump continues to repeat this lie, even though Americans United and several media outlets have called him on it. He might want to reconsider this strategy. While attacking the Johnson Amendment may play well with Trump’s Christian nationalist base, this new poll shows that just about everyone else hates the idea – as well they should.

P.S. In August 2017, Americans United and its allies rallied more than 4,500 faith leaders to sign a letter to Congress expressing support for the Johnson Amendment. Thanks to work like this, efforts to water down or repeal the amendment have failed. Your support helps us fight to keep partisan politics out of America’s houses of worship. 


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