Trump Goes After Separation of Church and State
President vows to 'totally destroy' the Johnson Amendment
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2017 4:58 PM CST
President Donald Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – Yes, President Trump took the opportunity of the National Prayer Breakfast to drag Arnold Schwarzenegger and his weak Celebrity Apprentice ratings. But he also brought up something arguably just as important: the Johnson Amendment, which he vowed to "totally destroy." Here's what you need to know:

  • The Washington Post has a great explanation of the Johnson Amendment, which basically bans churches and charities from participating in political campaigns unless they give up tax-exempt status.
  • Getting rid of the Johnson Amendment is part of Trump's emerging "agenda of religious nationalism," in which the president is linking being American with being Christian, the Atlantic reports.
  • MSNBC weighs in on why promising to "totally destroy" the Johnson Amendment is important. One such reason is that it would allow political parties and candidates to "funnel campaign donations through tax-exempt churches" with no oversight.
  • While the Johnson Amendment is wildly unpopular with the religious right, that's not necessarily the case elsewhere, the Independent reports. A survey last year found 79% of people didn't think pastors should endorse candidates. And some religious leaders believe churches would be hurt by entering the partisan world of politics.
  • In addition to the Johnson Amendment and Celebrity Apprentice, Trump also discussed foreign relations, telling those in attendance, "just don't worry about" the "tough phone calls I'm having," apparently in reference to threatening to invade Mexico and picking a fight with Australia, MarketWatch reports.
  • Outside the National Prayer Breakfast, around 150 members of local churches were protesting Trump's Muslim travel ban. One Christian author at the protest tells Yahoo News it's important for the church to "stand up and be on the right side of history."

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |  
4%
7%
11%
11%
50%
17%