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The Editors

U.S. Churches Shouldn't Play Politics

A Trump proposal threatens America’s guarantee of religious freedom.
Prayers and politics.

Prayers and politics.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has promised to eliminate a longstanding prohibition on political campaigning by religious organizations. It’s a bad idea, and the devout should be first in line to oppose it.

The ban, called the Johnson Amendment for its sponsor, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, doesn’t apply to political speech or activity on the part of ministers, rabbis or imams. The First Amendment protects them as it does all citizens. But if the religious organizations they run wish to be exempt from taxes and accept tax-deductible contributions, the groups must refrain from political campaign activity, as all other charitable groups do. That means no endorsing candidates from the pulpit, and no using church funds to support or oppose particular candidates or parties.