How Republicans Conspire With Churches For Political And Social Control

For Republicans, the goal of religion is—as it has been for authoritarians since Old Testament times—political and social control. It’s not about spirituality: it’s about raw, naked, taxpayer-subsidized power and the wealth that goes with it.

A Michigan County Republican party comes posted a video showing image after image of that state’s Democratic politicians, starting with Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whom right-wing terrorists once attempted to kidnap and assassinate.

Beneath each photo – including a photo of George Soros representing, presumably, the “international Jews” whom Republican politicians suggest are wielding space lasers and secretly trying to control the world – reads the death threat, in bold and capital letters. :

“GOD WILL CUT YOU! »

The wealthy pastors of at least four Republican-aligned megachurches in Georgia invited Hershel Walker to campaign, in clear violation of their tax-exempt status.

Across the country, white evangelical churches are brazenly pushing their parishioners to vote for Republican candidates: They’ve gotten away with breaking the law since the 1980s and show no desire to stop now.

As the University of Chicago School of Theology noted 5 months ago:

“In January, Walker spoke at Free Chapel in Gainesville, the congregation led by former Trump evangelical counselor Jentezen Franklin. At the end of February, Walker spoke during a service at First Baptist Atlanta. And in March he spoke at Sugar Hill Baptist Church, where he made controversial comments questioning evolution. At each sanctuary, pastors interviewed Walker onstage and offered their support for his candidacy in a way that appears to violate IRS rules prohibiting tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations from s engage in partisan campaigning activities.

It is time that average Americans stop being forced to subsidize politically radical religious leaders and their institutions.

Back at Trump’s second impeachment trial, Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and heir to Graham’s multi-million dollar fortune, publicly said that the 10 Republicans voting to impeach Donald Trump in the United States House of Representatives were like Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.

“And these ten, of [Trump’s] own party, joined in the feeding frenzy,” he wrote. “It makes you wonder what were the thirty pieces of silver President Pelosi promised for this betrayal.”

Franklin Graham is a multi-millionaire largely because neither he nor his family have to pay taxes on the income from the family business or even pay property taxes on the land and buildings their business owns and in which they live.

Instead, you and I and the taxpayers of his city and state are paying extra taxes to subsidize Graham and his “ministry,” as we do for thousands of other politically active “preachers.”

There is a history to this political-religious-financial complex.

In the 1950s, the John Birch Society put up billboards across America demanding that Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren be removed from office for signing the Brown v Council decision that required schools to be racially integrated.

Image from https://i.redd.it/ttsd9w6cax831.jpg

White churches across the country, as well as wealthy industrialists like Fred Koch, helped fund the effort, arguing that school integration was the first step toward full-fledged communism in America and was contrary to the “will of God “.

Preachers fumed from the pulpit about the dangers of school integration: the question gave birth to the modern “religious right”. Bob Jones, Jerry Falwell and others created all-white schools to challenge the ruling, often claiming that because their schools were “Christian” they were exempt from federal oversight and therefore did not have to comply with the law. opinion of the Supreme Court.

Into this firestorm came Senator Lyndon Johnson, who proposed in 1954 that it was fine if the churches wanted to engage in politics or claim that Jesus would have been against racial integration, but if they chose to preach and practice racism and politics, the rest of America should not not be obliged to subsidize them.

It passed Congress that year and was signed into law by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Since the Reagan era, however, the law has been largely ignored. As The Washington Post Noted in a 2016 editorial:

“Indeed, more than 2,000 mostly evangelical Christian clergy have willfully violated the law since 2008 in protest; only one has been audited by the IRS, and none have been punished…”

When preachers push politics instead of religion on Sunday morning, according to the so-called Johnson Amendment, their church should lose its tax-exempt status.

As the Tax Notes:

“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. ”

Churches could still engage in nonpartisan political activities like a voter registration drive or organizing buses to take people to polling places, but when they took positions on political candidates or issues, they have lost their right to force us to pay for their roads, police, fire and all other tax-funded public services.

But since George HW Bush brought his son George W. Bush to his 1988 campaign to reach white evangelical churches, many evangelists, televangelists, and churches across America ignored this law.

Not only do they regularly preach right-wing hatred, totally incompatible with the message of Jesus, but they raise hundreds of millions of dollars – all tax exempt – to be injected into political campaigns.

This is not how the framers of our Constitution thought America should operate.

When our republic was founded, “Father of the Constitution” James Madison worried about government influence and church corruption, as had happened in Massachusetts before the Revolution.

On the other hand, his mentor, Thomas Jefferson, feared that churches and their religious leaders would corrupt politicians and the government itself.

Turns out both were right.

Their solution was enshrined in Article VI of the Constitution, which says:

“[N]o A religious test will never be required as a qualification for any public office or trust in the United States. »

They doubled down with the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of any religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Thomas Jefferson later referred to it as a “wall of separation between church and state” that would keep both our republic and our churches independent of each other.

When he became our fourth president, James Madison the first veto was to reject a bill it would have given a federal grant to a church in Washington DC to feed those in need.

No U.S. government should give money to churches, he said, regardless of its purpose, and the bill he vetoed would “set a precedent for giving to religious societies as legal agency in the performance of a public and civil duty”.

Unfortunately, and particularly since the Reagan revolution, we have not backtracked on this principle. Churches have found hundreds of ways to get their hands on government money and have become deeply entrenched in lobbying and politics.

It’s hard to find a successful televangelist or a great evangelical pastor who isn’t now a multi-millionaire, presiding over a multi-million, if not billion-dollar empire within America’s multi-billion dollar-a-year religious industry. And they got there, in part, because you and I subsidize them.

Modern history, especially since 1954, proves the wisdom of Madison and Jefferson’s concern.

If right-wing religious leaders want to tell their followers how to believe, how to behave, and how to vote, that’s fine. It is their right in a nation that celebrates both freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Churches, after all, have been telling their members how to behave since the beginning of organized religion. The social and political control exercised by religion is nothing new: it is at least as old as the Bible.

But you and I shouldn’t have to subsidize their political control over their supporters with our taxes.

It’s time for the IRS to step up its enforcement and cut off these profiteers their free lunch of tax exemption when they engage in the policy.

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Written by Thom Hartmann. Posted with permission from The Hartmann Report.

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Barry F. Howard