In a closed-door meeting last night, president Donald Trump told evangelical leaders that they are “one election away from losing everything that you’ve got” and that their opponents are “violent people” who will overturn everything Trump has achieved “violently.”
Captured in a recording, Trump said:
They will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently. There’s violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people.
The level of hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable. Part of it is because of some of the things I’ve done for you and for me and for my family, but I’ve done them.
This Nov. 6th election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment.NBC
You bet your ass it’s a referendum on you, buddy. But what it’s not is a referendum on religion or free speech. Nobody is trying to prevent Christians from practicing their religion. No one. It’s just not a thing. It’s not happening.
But the larger issue here that Trump is referring to is the Johnson Amendment – a law that stops tax exempt non-profit organizations, like churches, from endorsing political candidates. It protects our election process by preventing “dark money” from being funneled into churches or other non-profit groups to influence elections. If you thought that Russians meddling in the 2016 elections was bad, repealing the Johnson Amendment would be much, much worse. Trump also said:
Now one of the things I’m most proud of is getting rid of the Johnson Amendment. That was a disaster for you.
Despite what Trump claimed, the Johnson Amendment is still live and well. Trump signed an executive order in May 2017 that was aimed at easing the enforcement of the Amendment, the ACLU has called the order “toothless” as it essentially does nothing.
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It’s somewhat confusing why Trump would pretend that he’s repealed it, unless he has so little respect for evangelicals that he thinks they won’t know the difference. Or maybe he’s just stupid.
As NBC pointed out:
In May 2017, Trump signed an executive order that purported to ease enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. But experts — and the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes repeal of the provision — say the Trump order was basically toothless.
“It does almost nothing,” Gregory Magarian, a constitutional law professor at Washington University Law School.
Politifact, the nonpartisan fact-checking organization, rated Trump’s claim that he had gotten rid of the Johnson Amendment “mostly false” when he first made it publicly in July 2017.
What this boils down to is the fact that Trump is scared. He’s desperately trying to convince his base – the religious right – that there’s some sort of violent war on the horizon if conservatives lose control of Congress in November. He’s pandering to the Christian victim complex, a hallmark of any religious activist, and trying to mobilize them to vote for conservatives.
This is a very clear attempt to circumvent the Johnson Amendment and blur the lines of church and state, as evidenced by Trump’s own words, in reference to the Johnson Amendment:
Now you’re not silenced anymore. It’s gone and there’s no penalty anymore and if you like somebody or if you don’t like somebody you can go out and say, ‘This man is going to be great for evangelicals, or for Christianity or for another religion. This person is somebody that I like and I’m going to talk about it on Sunday.’
Does anyone really believe that Trump, whose bread and butter is protecting evangelicals, would do anything to protect those who aren’t Christian?
Trump is trying to show the religious right that he’s their only hope. He’s playing into their paranoia that democrats are coming after them and trying to stop them from practicing their religious beliefs. The fact is, no rational person has ever called for any type of laws or restrictions to be placed on Christians.
I encourage anyone who cares about the separation of church and state to become a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, like I am.