A Wall Trump Doesn’t Want: One Between Church and State

It has been a mere two weeks since his inauguration but President Donald Trump seems to be wasting no time in trying to make conservatives’ fantasies reality in addition to filling his team with people with similar goals.

Next on his slate appears to be the dismantling of the secular nature of the United States government.

Churches’ Tax-Exempt Status

Speaking recently at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump announced that he planned to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.”

Passed in 1954 by a Republican-dominated Congress and signed into law by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Johnson Amendment officially prohibited 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt institutions, including churches, from actively promoting or favoring political agendas and candidates.

The law derives its name from then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson who introduced the bill primarily to undermine an opposing political candidate who had cemented a great deal of support from tax-exempt groups.

Johnson’s goal might not have necessarily been to further cement a division between religion and government in the United States. However, the law has since been hailed as an important reinforcement of the first clause of the First Amendment which states that there cannot be any “law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Granting “Religious Freedom”

The benignly titled draft executive order “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom” is less about freedom and more about condoning discrimination. If signed, the order would allow “any organization” to behave according to their religious beliefs.

This would encompass an enormous variety of areas, from employment to healthcare and beyond. One need only look to the Hobby Lobby case following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Readers may recall that after the arts and crafts chain’s conservative Christian owners refused to grant their female employees health coverage that would include birth control, they were sued. Eventually, the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court and Hobby Lobby walked away victorious.

Regarding Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court, Trump’s newly announced nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, Neil Gorsuch, once ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor as a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals during the same lawsuit.

If he is put on the bench, Gorsuch, as part of the conservative majority, would be able to uphold Trump’s executive order were it to be tested in court.

For more about Gorsuch and why his nomination worthy of concern, read our article on the possible future Supreme Court justice.

Education

For years the place of religion (or rather, Christianity), creationism and its cousin, intelligent design within American classrooms have been a point of contention for the religious right. They, of course, have long argued that these concepts deserve to be taught alongside, if not in place of, subjects like geology and evolution.

This is a battle that hasn’t had much success for conservative Christians in the United States, but under Trump’s new team that could very well change.

Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos has drawn a bevy of criticism, ranging from her apparent lack of qualifications to her family’s massive donations to the Republican Party.

She has proven herself to be anti-public school and an advocate of radical education reforms; more importantly, however, are DeVos’ motivations for her agenda. Not only have DeVos and her husband donated $8.6 million to private religious schools, she justified her actions quite clearly in a 2001 speech, saying that the “greater Kingdom gain in the long run [will come] by changing the way we approach things – in this case, the system of education in the country.”

DeVos faces a final Senate confirmation vote on Monday.

This week President Trump announced another prominent evangelical would lead the White House’s education task force, Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and son of Jerry Falwell, perhaps the best known and most influential evangelical Christian in the U.S. before his death.

Falwell’s stated agenda, like DeVos’, seeks to minimize the government’s role in education. He has expressed a great deal of contempt for the Department of Education’s oversight of institutes of higher education, in particular Title IX. Specifically, Falwell wants to ax a portion of this law which focuses on sexual assault investigations and reporting, arguing that such things are not the federal government’s concern.

With Trump’s presidency still in its early days, it remains to be seen what other tactics his administration will take to undermine the separation of church and state.

Photo Credit: trevorb687 / Thinkstock

193 comments

Siyus C
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Amy L
Amy L2 years ago

Oh and by the way - the state took down the 10 Commandments monument because they would have been forced to allow the Satanic Temple to erect their monument too.

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Amy L
Amy L2 years ago

My belief is that Church and state should remain separate. My professor of religious studies said that when you open the door for one religious group in a secular setting then it must be opened for all. A good case in point of this is when the Satanic Temple wanted to erect a demonic monument of Baphmet (a goat like demon creature surrounded by children) at the Oklahoma Statehouse since a monument of the 10 Commandments was erected. This is exactly what my professor was talking about and for that reason Church and state should remain separate.

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Karen S
Karen S2 years ago

JT Smith---I agree with you 100%--You are a thinking, rational, Minister...

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JT Smith
Past Member 2 years ago

I'm an ordained minister, and as far as I'm concerned, All churches should lose their tax exempt status. I agree with George Carlin when he said on his album What Am I Doing In New Jersey: "You know what I say we oughtta do with all these churches? Tax them! If they're so interested in politics and government and public policy then make them pay the entrance fee like everybody else - tax them."

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Ron G
Past Member 2 years ago

whoops sorry about the multiple postings saying absolutely nothing....dunno how that happened ....
Christians are often told they try to convert others to their own beliefs . But really , the Christian can only reveal the information that God wants from us . It isn't Christians who convert at all but God Himself but ONLY IF THE PERSON RECEIVING THE INFORMATION LISTENS AND RECEIVES IT AND IS WILLING . It is always about choice so it's pointless getting angry with the messenger and insulting him/her .The ones who do that ,often are driven by hate . All they do is reveal the condition of their own hearts/spirits . We ALL need to look inward at ourselves to analise our motives. before we act .
I have friends both atheist and Christian . We are ALL human with human nature which gets us into trouble at times . God knows that and so does Satan who works at constantly deceiving us ...if we allow him . God makes His will known to us but Satan subtly deceives and deludes those who think he doesn't even exist as well as those who do know of him . It's a battle constantly being fought .....and ignored .Govt's are humans affected .

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Ron G
Past Member 2 years ago

Herbert C.....Thank you for your last post...it was courteous and explained your position without resorting to insults and expressions of disrespect....I truly respect that . Maybe I am " long-winded " at times but I prefer to be understood where I am coming from and why . When I am asked questions or accused , I believe it is better to explain my reply to show that I believe and understand my sources for information. And not all of those are from the bible either. We Christians are often accused of following blind faith but nothing could be further from the truth . In fact my experience is that knowing God has caused me to think far deeper for it penetrates much more than humanitarian facts . Before being a committed Christian ,i would describe myself as being an agnostic . But the moment I made the commitment , so much more made sense and now I continue learning .The point that Dan made about truth , is that if it isn't truth , it won't stand but real truth will not be denied. It cannot be justifiably refuted .Lies though , create havoc and division. Government and church ? If we try to operate only by a system of laws , WE WILL FAIL ! Laws are always a challenge to abide by but they do prove to us that we are fallible alright and we cannot change what is set in stone.

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Philippa P
Philippa Powers2 years ago

Thanks.

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Philip W
Philip W2 years ago

Continued part 8

Only through community, communication, compassion, and the ACCEPTANCE of the inevitable fact of our nature that we are all going to eventually die, can we accept ourselves as we are, which leads to commonality, self-esteem, empathy, sympathy, belonging, peace, justice, and fairness. Religion wants you to accept a contrived sense of debt that mankind always seems to owe. As long as mankind looks through those imposed blinders they will never be free. There is no shame or disgrace in dying and we are not flawed because we do. We are not born in sin, we are born human, we act human, and we will remain human until the day we die.
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Philip W
Philip W2 years ago

Continued part 7

"Pleonexia, sometimes called pleonexy, originating from the Greek πλεονεξια, is a philosophical concept which roughly corresponds to greed, covetousness, or avarice, and is strictly defined as "the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others", suggesting what Ritenbaugh describes as "ruthless self-seeking and an arrogant assumption that others and things exist for one's own benefit." - Zadie Smith

The reality is we all have the same needs; food, water, shelter, security, healthcare, etc. Yet religion is used to purposely divide us on issues that don't matter, causing believers to be fanatically involved with who others love or have sex with, where they pee, what they eat, everything and anything as long as it keeps people divided. If people could ever unite over their common needs, disregard their inevitable differences, we would all fight together for a better life for everyone.

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