Today, our President will sign one of his fantastic, unbelievable, huge, beautiful, better-than-anyone-else’s Executive Orders. He doesn’t seem to understand that these orders do not automatically become the law of the land when he signs them, but then there’s so much he doesn’t understand. In his mind, an Executive Tweet has the power of an Executive Order, which has the power of a bill passed unanimously by both the House and Senate and upheld by the Supreme Court.
But it doesn’t work that way. At least not yet.
Christian conservatives will be visiting the White House today, and Trump intends to celebrate the occasion by delivering on his promise, repeated during the campaign and after inauguration, to “totally destroy” what’s known as the Johnson Amendment, a ban on churches and other tax-exempt organizations supporting political candidates that was proposed by Lyndon Johnson in 1954 and agreed to without discussion or debate.
With the Johnson Amendment, according to the IRS website, tax-exempt organizations “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office”.
Because it’s written in the tax code, fully repealing the Johnson Amendment will require an Act of Congress. Does this make me feel any better in the Trump era? I’ll get back to you on that.
Even in the dark pre-history of 1954, when we were still trying to decide whether schools should be segregated by race, lawmakers understood the idea that the separation of church and state was one of the most important pillars of our democracy. Does it seem too much to say that this is really the thing that most clearly separates us from the Islamic Republic of Iran? Or the Taliban?
The NPR site has a nice little Q and A on what it’s all about. Basically, it’s about money and political advantage. Surprised?
I’ll boil it down for you this way: if something seems to benefit Republicans in general and Trump in particular, they will make it so.
And if they have to shred the constitution to do it, or if it has unintended consequences down the line, or if it ultimately ruins the good thing we’ve got going here in the good old U. S. of A., well, so be it. They’ll have theirs.