CLEVELAND (JTA) — Donald Trump pledged that if elected president he would repeal a law that keeps tax-exempt nonprofits, including houses of worship, from endorsing candidates.
Trump, delivering a 28-minute speech in New York on Saturday that was ostensibly an introduction of his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, veered to an array of other topics. One was concerns by evangelicals about their political activities.
“You are absolutely shunned if you’re an evangelical if you want to talk religion, you lose your tax-exempt status,” he said, noting that his advisers had shepherded a pledge to repeal the “Johnson amendment” into the Republican Party platform.
“We’re going to get rid of that horrible Johnson amendment and we’re going to let evangelicals, we’re going to let Christians and Jews and people of religion talk without being afraid to talk,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said.
Sponsored by Lyndon Johnson in 1954 when he was a Texas senator, the amendment limits political activities for nonprofits classified as tax exempt. The law does not apply to individuals.
An array of Jewish groups, among them the Reform movement, endorses the church-state separations embedded in the law.
The thrice-married Trump, a one-time casino magnate who as a celebrity frequently boasted of a prolific romantic life, was perceived at the outset of his campaign as unlikely to draw evangelical support. While many evangelical leaders have shunned him, several are backing him. Trump also drew substantial support from self-identified evangelical voters during the primaries, in which he emerged from a field of 17 candidates.