Hey, Tony Perkins and Fox News, the Johnson Amendment Does Not Stop Pastors or Churches From Preaching Religious Beliefs
EDITORIAL: Stop Misinforming Americans: Part One
Tony Perkins and Fox News teamed up Thursday morning, just after PresidentÂ Donald Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, to misinform viewers about what the law does and does not do. While no one should be surprisedÂ the leader of a certified anti-gay hate group would be embraced by Fox News, it was an offensive display of the miseducation of America.
The Johnson Amendment, named for then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, is a half-century old law prohibiting churches, religious institutions, and some non-profits from endorsing political candidates.Â
What it does not do is stop them from preaching their faith, from endorsing or opposing political or social issues, contrary to what Perkins and Fox News just claimed.
So, if a preacher, rabbi, priest, pastor, imam, or other religious leader, or even the CEO of a faith-based non-profit wants to denounce same-sex marriage, or even claim homosexuality is a sin, they can do that, with no concern the IRS will strip away their tax-exewmot status. And that’s really what this is all about: money. Many churches and other religious non-profits have become multi-million and multi-billion dollar corporations, thanks in part to the fact that they and their employees often pay zero taxes.
That tax-exempt status costs tax-paying citizens well over $80 billion a year. In other words, every man, woman, and child in America on average pays about $250 a year extra in taxes so churches don’t have to. More, actually, if you deduct the people who are tax-exempt.
Some say it’s a small price to pay for freedom of religion, but the religious right that opposes the Johnson Amendment want their cake and they want to eat it tooÂ â€“ and they want taxpayers to pay for it.
So they lie, and they turn to platforms like Fox News to help them misinform Americans.
Here’s what aÂ Fox News host said about the Johnson Amendment today:
“It essentially makes most churches and religious leaders feel that their hands are tied, that if they express any endorsement of any particular religious position or party pr person who’s running for office that they risk their tax-exempt status.”
Perkins immediately supported the Fox News host’s false statement, saying, “correct.”
Notice the word “feel.”
There law, which is very readily accessible on the IRS’ website, makes very clear what the rules are. And those who oppose the law most know that the IRS has almost never stripped a religious entity’s tax exempt status for violating the Johnson AmendmentÂ â€“ and perhaps they should start.
For a decade this statement has lived on the IRS’ website: “…these organizations can engage in advocating for or against issues and, to a limited extent, ballot initiatives or other legislative activities.”
Also not correct is the claim of “mostÂ churches and religious leaders.” In fact, in light of President Trump’s announcementÂ that he will “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which represents thousandsÂ of Southern Baptist Convention churches and individuals nationwide â€“Â one of the largest religious groups in the nation â€“Â issued a statement denouncing the president’s intention:
â€œPoliticizing churches does them no favors. The promised repeal is an attack on the integrity of both our charitable organizations and campaign finance system.
Inviting churches to intervene in campaigns with tax-deductible dollars would fundamentally change our houses of worship. It would usher our partisan divisions into the pews and harm the churchâ€™s ability to provide refuge.
To change the law would hinder the churchâ€™s prophetic witness, threatening to turn pulpit prophets into political puppets.â€
They know that repealing the Johnson Amendment is a sure-fire way to impoverish churches, especially smaller ones who struggle to stay afloat.Â
But that’s really why Trump wants to repeal the law: he wants the cash to fuel his re-election, which he has already filed for.
Trump is no great Christian warrior. He is using the cause of “religious liberty” to line his campaign treasury and to get votes. How very un-Christian.
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Dominion Wins ‘Blockbuster Victories’ Against Fox News – Last Legal Issue Will Be Decided by a Jury: Report
Dominion Voting Systems won what are being called “blockbuster victories” Friday afternoon when a judge ruled the company suing Fox News for $1.6 billion in a major defamation lawsuit had met its burden of proof that Rupert Murdoch‘s far-right wing cable channel had repeatedly made false statements.
The final, and likely greatest legal issue Dominion will have to prove will be actual malice. That issue will be decided in a jury trial, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled Friday, according to Law & Crime.
Unlike previous cases, Fox News will reportedly not be able to argue the on-air statements its personalities made were opinion.
CNN legal analyst and Brookings senior fellow Norm Eisen calls Friday’s decision a “huge win for Dominion on their summary judgment motion against Fox News.”
READ MORE: Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
“Dominion won partial summary judgement that what Fox said about them was false! Now they just have to prove actual malice and damages,” Eisen says. “Meanwhile Fox’s motion was totally denied.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, an MSNBC contributor adds: “Dominion’s evidence Fox made false statements with reckless disregard is as strong as any I’ve seen.”
The judge was very clear in his ruling.
“While the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to Fox, the record does not show a genuine issue of material fact as to falsity,” Judge Davis wrote. “Through its extensive proof, Dominion has met its burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact as to falsity. Fox therefore had the burden to show an issue of material fact existed in turn. Fox failed to meet its burden.”
READ MORE: ‘Propaganda Network’: Media Reporter Says Dominion Filing Exposes Fox News as ‘Void of the Most Basic Journalistic Ethics’
Attorney and MSNBC host and legal analyst Katie Phang points to this key passage in Judge Davis’ ruling.
Dominion has won the argument on the issue of falsity, meaning that as the Court funds below, “it is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” pic.twitter.com/7lKEspN0WI
— Katie S. Phang (@KatiePhang) March 31, 2023
Court watchers and news junkies are familiar at this point with the massive legal filings Dominion has made in which it exposed how Fox News knowingly made false statements regarding the 2020 presidential election. Those filings, each hundreds of pages, also detail internal Fox News communications and bombshell conversations between the company’s top personalities, executives, and even Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Image of Rupert Murdoch via Shutterstock
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
The U.S. Capitol Police and the Senate Sergeant at Arms on Friday jointly issued a statement warning they “anticipate” Trump protests across the country. The statement is not time-specific, and it states it has no information on “credible threats,” but some Democratic offices are allowing staffers to work from home Friday and Tuesday.
“The Sergeant at Arms and United States Capitol Police (USCP) anticipate demonstration activity across the country related to the indictment of former President Trump. While law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity. USCP is working with law enforcement partners, so you may observe a greater law enforcement presence on Capitol Hill,” the statement reads.
“The SAA and USCP are monitoring the potential nationwide impacts to Senate state offices,” it adds.
The House Sergeant at Arms was conspicuously absent from the statement. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has control over that office.
READ MORE: Trump Trial Could Go Well Into the 2024 Election – Or Possibly Even Past It: Former Prosecutor
Additionally, Axios is reporting, “several House Democrats are allowing staffers to work from home as a safety precaution,” noting that “the memory of Trump supporters ransacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 is still fresh on the mind.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is allowing staff to work from home for safety reasons. She told Axios, “I don’t ever want to see a Jan. 6 again.”
“I’ve been in the Trump hate tunnel, Donald Trump has gone after me, and quite frankly I don’t have security. I don’t have entourages.”
She’s not the only Democrat to raise concerns.
“Much of the language from the former President and his devotees is similar to what inspired Jan. 6th,” U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips said. “I’m concerned about safety for my colleagues and my staff.”
READ MORE: ‘Lighting the Match’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Blasted for Off the Rails Rant Defending Trump
Meanwhile, House Republicans are issuing full-throated support for Trump and calling for protests.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was called out by name in a six-page letter Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent to Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan Friday morning, announced she will be in New York on Tuesday to support Trump when he is arraigned. She has posted several tweets since Trump was indicted.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Thursday seemingly designed to gin up rage and action in the MAGA base.
“Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election. As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr and a CC license
Trump Trial Could Go Well Into the 2024 Election – Or Possibly Even Past It: Former Prosecutor
Donald Trump, and all of America, could spend the next 18 months – or longer – engrossed in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s trial of the ex-president, and that could bring the trial close to Election Day.
That’s according to a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, Charles Coleman, who is now a civil rights attorney and MSNBC legal analyst.
Asked by MSNBC’s Chris Jansing, “How long typically might a case like this take?” Coleman offered a two-tiered answer.
“A case like this is usually going to take a year or a year and a half,” Coleman said.
That could be through September of 2024.
READ MORE: ‘Lighting the Match’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Blasted for Off the Rails Rant Defending Trump
“Wow,” a surprised Jansing replied. “So it’s going right up into the campaign.”
“Absolutely,” agreed Coleman. “But it’s important to understand I said a case ‘like this.’ This particular case, I expect may take longer because I am anticipating a number of different legal maneuvers by Donald Trump’s defense team.”
That theoretically means into October of 2024, or longer.
“I do see motions to dismiss at a number of different terms, more likely than not to the point that the judge probably will ultimately end up admonishing them and telling them stop filing motions to dismiss. I think that that’s going to happen,” Coleman explained.
“I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I do believe that we are going to see an attempt to try to change the venue, in this case outside of somewhere in the five boroughs. All of that is going to extend the time deeper and deeper into election season.”
READ MORE: Manhattan DA Unleashes on Jim Jordan With Stern Warning: You May Not ‘Interfere’ With Trump Prosecution
Reuters agrees, reporting Friday morning, “any potential trial is still at minimum more than a year away, legal experts said, raising the possibility that the former U.S. president could face a jury in a Manhattan courtroom during or even after the 2024 presidential campaign, as he seeks a return to the White House.”
And because “Trump’s case is far from typical,” Reuters notes, his trial could extend “past Election Day in November 2024.”
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