CLEVELAND — Donald Trump pledged that if elected president he would repeal a law that keeps tax-exempt non-profits, 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 Republican presidential nominee said.
Sponsored by Lyndon Johnson in 1954 when he was a Texas senator, the amendment limits political activities for non-profits classified as tax exempt. The law does not apply to individuals.
An array of Jewish groups, among them the Reform movement, endorse the church-state separations embedded in the law.
The thrice-married Trump, a onetime 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 back him and he drew substantial support from self-identified evangelical voters during the primaries.