Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday called for swift passage of the Free Speech Fairness Act, which would repeal the Johnson Amendment and allow churches to take part in political campaigns.
President Donald Trump in February promised faith leaders he would “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment. The amendment was penned by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson in 1954, and prevents tax-exempt churches and other nonprofits from participating in political campaigns.
“I will get rid of, and totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” Trump said.
KVUE reported in February that Texas faith leaders were split on the idea, and LifeWay surveys conducted in 2012 and 2016 found that nearly 90 percent of Protestant pastors and nearly 80 percent of parishioners believe that churches should stay out of politics.
Abbott and Paxton’s letter to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) reminded them “of the role churches and pastors played in bringing a faith perspective to the pressing political issues of the day,” their offices said in a release.
“Since the Johnson Amendment, however, churches have been kept on the sidelines of political debate,” Paxton and Abbott wrote. “The Free Speech Fairness Act will ensure that churches may once again freely participate in government.”