Many groups were afraid that Donald Trump’s newly signed executive order would be an attack on LGBT groups and other minorities whose lives and beliefs fall outside of traditional religious thinking.
Even the ACLU exhaled when it saw the actual wording today. Although it has been lost in the butt-hurt wake of the fiasco that is the health care plan, almost no one has mentioned the biggest implication of Trump’s newest executive action:
It will make evangelical Christians the most powerful group in the country.
There are many who say that this executive order doesn’t matter—that a presidential edict can’t rescind an existing law passed by Congress. But that’s not what Trump is trying to do. He is instructing the IRS to ignore the law. Anyone who doesn’t think that can happen should remember that the only reason people who sell weed aren’t arrested in states where marijuana is legal is that the Justice Department has instructed federal agents not to enforce the federal marijuana-prohibition laws in those states. The DREAM Act has never been law—President Barack Obama simply instructed immigration officials to stop deporting certain undocumented immigrants.
The most troublesome part of Trump’s executive order lies in Section 2:
In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure ... that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective ...
As used in this section, the term “adverse action” means the imposition of any tax or tax penalty; the delay or denial of tax-exempt status.
What exactly does this mean?
Churches, nonprofits and religious organizations in the U.S. enjoy tax-exempt status. It’s how T.D. Jakes got his helicopter, Creflo Dollar got his Rolls Royce and Joel Olsteen got his pearly-white teeth. They can bring in millions of dollars and do whatever they want to do with it.
The reason for this is important. If churches or charities had to pay taxes, it would give them undue influence on the government because they become a necessary part of the economy. Let’s suppose a megachurch in a small town wanted ... let’s say ... its own police department. Legislators might be apt to give it one if it paid millions of dollars in taxes.
In exchange for not paying taxes, religious institutions agree to stay out of politics. This is supposed to be a given, but to make sure, in 1954, then-Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson sponsored the Johnson Amendment—which gives the IRS the right to strip organizations of their tax-exempt status for engaging in political activity. It states that 501(c)(3) groups (the tax code for charitable, tax-exempt institutions) “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” If these institutions cross the line, the IRS can revoke their charitable status, costing them millions in taxes.
For example, in 1992 the IRS stripped Branch Ministries in New York of its status for taking out a full-page ad telling Christians not to vote for Bill Clinton. Most of the time, the simple threat of repealing the status is enough for an organization to straighten out and disengage from political advocacy.
So what would happen if those restrictions didn’t exist?
What if the biggest church in the city told its members whom they should vote for, and filled a school board with its selected members? The Catholic Church could become the equivalent of a kingmaker if it endorsed a candidate for president. The largest church in a community automatically becomes the most important. Preachers would become powerful figures, and freedom of religion would be eradicated—because some faiths would be more important than others.
President George W. Bush bailed out the auto industry because a company like General Motors can pay powerful lobbyists with the $9 billion it made in 2016. Lawmakers look the other way while an opioid epidemic overtakes America because pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer make $7 billion every year. HCSC (the parent company of Blue Cross) can control the health care debate because it made more than $106 million last year. Those companies can spend millions and control politicians because they rake in so much money.
That’s all chump change. The Southern Baptist Convention pulled in $10 billion tax-free dollars in 2016.
The only thing that prevents politicians from going to preachers and promising laws based on their religious beliefs is the Johnson Amendment. Evangelicals want it repealed because they want to institute their own version of Shariah law. They want to be able to wipe out gay marriage, abortion and Lil Uzi Vert songs and start every school day with a prayer to Jesus, accompanied by that bland white-church, pipe organ gospel music. Do you want the likes of Creflo Dollar and Jerry Falwell determining who will be your governor or coming up with your birth control laws?
There is a reason for the separation of church and state. Without it, the biggest churches will become the state, and Trump just whittled away a little bit of the only protection we have against having to listen to white choirs sing gospel music out of hymnals at the beginning of every football game and school play. The only reason anyone calls them the “silent majority” is that they had to be. The explicit edict of “evangelicals” is to evangelize.
The National Association of Evangelicals defines evangelicals by four tenets:
- They encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their savior.
- Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only way to absolve them from sin.
- Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
- The Bible is the highest authority for what they believe.
God help us all.