WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – A Georgia congressman wants to remove a restriction on churches that don’t allow pastors to talk politics and prayer.
For Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), promoting religious freedom is personal.
“Having been a pastor for 25 years plus, prior to Congress, I saw firsthand the damaging impact of the Johnson Amendment,” Rep. Hice said.
Since 1954, the Johnson Amendment has banned non-profit organizations and churches from supporting political candidates.
“That really threatens and censors what can and cannot be said in the pulpits of America with (the) threat of losing your tax-exempt status if you cross some nebulous line that the government disapproves of,” Hice said.
Hice says while he was a pastor, his church’s tax-exempt status was threatened after he spoke freely about political candidates at church. He’s now working on a bill to remove the restriction.
Opponents believe most of America is against the idea.
“I don’t think that’s wise for our politics or our churches,” said Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons with Center for American Progress.
He fears repealing the Johnson Amendment would make churches more like a political organization than a place of worship.
“I go to church to pray, to be in fellowship with my fellow Christians, to center myself, and yes to hear about issues in the world,” Graves-Fitzsimmons said. “I don’t go to church to hear political endorsements.”
He says he feels confident the majority of American doesn’t want churches endorsing candidates.
President Donald Trump has mixed public statements on the topic. But during the State of the Union, he said the country shouldn’t “muzzle preachers and pastors.” That means the president may support the bill if Hice can get it passed.