WASHINGTON D.C. — At the 2016 Values Voter Summit, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump discussed his future plans as President, vowing to defend religious liberty.
“The first thing we have to do is to give our churches their voice back,” Trump stated. “I will repeal the Johnson Amendment if I am elected your president.”
The Johnson Amendment prevents pastors from endorsing or opposing any political candidate, with the penalty being the termination of their church’s tax exempt status.
“The Johnson amendment has blocked our pastors and ministers and others from speaking their minds from their own pulpits. If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach, if they want to talk about politics, they’re unable to do so,” he expressed. “If they want to do it, they take a tremendous risk that they lose their tax-exempt status.”
“And I must tell you from the heart, this started, a building of mine in Manhattan. I had 50 pastors in a big conference room. And we actually had 50 pastors, two rabbis, a couple of priests,” he continued. “We were all talking. And we were there for two hours. And at the end, it was a love- fest.”
“And I said to them – we were high up in a building on 5 th Avenue – and I said to them I’d love your support.”
“And I know they wanted to give me their total support, 100 percent, just like I had in the primaries,” he exclaimed. “They said, ‘Well, sir, we can’t do that because we would be violating the laws.’ And I said, ‘What’s the punishment?’ ‘Well, we could lose our tax-exempt status, which, of course, is a, you know, massive penalty.’ I said, ‘Tell me about this.’ And we sat down.”
“They talked about it. ‘When did it happen?’ ‘1954 or so.’ Lyndon Johnson was having problems – powerful guy.”
“Can you imagine that this man single- handedly – he was having problems with churches. And there was a church in Houston that was giving him a hard time, maybe for very good reason,” he stated. “And he put in an amendment that basically stopped our great pastors and ministers and others from talking, under the penalty of losing their tax-exempt status.”
“If I become president, we are going to knock out the Johnson amendment,” Trump promised. “We are going to do that. And it’s not going to be hard.”
His plan to restore pastors’ freedom of speech was met with a standing ovation by evangelicals attending the summit.