On July 2, 1954, Sen. Lindon Baines Johnson promoted a bill which still shapes the way millions of financial institutions and social organizations conduct their activities today. Senator Johnson was a powerhouse in the United States Senate. Therefore, his bill passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The authors and supporters of this bill from the 1950s knew it would isolate the views of a large and powerful voting bloc from the general public. I can only assume the majority of the elected officials of that day were not concerned if the wording of this bill violated the foundational principles of the U.S. Constitution.
The approved statute I am referring to is The Johnson Amendment. This law modified the way the U.S. Internal Revenue Service views the actions of non-profit businesses and faith-based organizations. It is a provision in our country’s tax code that bans these 501 organizations from expressing their views concerning political candidates. Federal control of this nature should be concerning for all Americans, but obviously there are others who believe the federal government have the authority to regulate every aspect of our lives.
I cannot find a single statute that stops state and local elected officials from restricting free and open expressions of charitable businesses and faith-based organizations. The main function of faith-based organizations is to openly share their set of beliefs with the general population. Churches, synagogues and other places of worship naturally address issues relating to proposed legislation and current established laws. It becomes more important for places of worship to speak out when laws trample on their foundational teachings which helps to maintain our peaceful society.
In addition, this also is true when politicians promote legislation that limit their freedoms. The authority of The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly should have prevented passage of The Johnson Amendment. This amendment specifically limits the authority of the U.S. Congress, of which the Senate is one of the two houses of Congress. The specific wording reads; Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF.
This truth makes the Johnson Amendment unconstitutional.
I am surprised it cleared the committee where it was first introduced and then approved by both houses and signed by the president during that time.
Secondly, I wonder why it has not been challenged in court. An individual who is on the staff of a faith-based organization and have the responsibility of communicating the tenets of their organization is in line with the U.S. Constitution when they speak out in support or opposition of a candidate’s position as it relates to their doctrinal teaching.
If our Congressional leaders do not have the fortitude to correct this infringement on this basic Constitutional right, We the People of the United States must start to make our own petition to correct this monumental violation of Americanism.
Dr. Aaron Means is a resident of Stillwater. Comments can be mailed to P.O. Box 2152, Stillwater, OK 74076.