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The Latest Assault on American Democracy: The Politicization of Religion
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-09-19 08:03:18
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Dante saw the source of corruption in the Church as the mixing of temporal and spiritual power via the so called “Donation of Constantine” in the third century AD. The founding fathers of the US also saw the separation of Church and State as an important aspect of the US Constitution. They had good reasons for establishing such a constitutional provision:  the European wars of religions following the Protestant Reformation were still very fresh on their minds.

That did not mean that they were anti-religion or outright unbelievers. To the contrary, many of them devoutly regularly practiced their religion and read their Bibles; but they simply thought that, to avoid corruption of one by the other, the two—State and Church—needed to be kept separate from each other. The separation would benefit both and promote a more democratic and transparent political process.

The separation of Church and State has always been respected in American history by most people of faith. It still is. But that may no longer be the case in the House of Representatives. They have recently passed a spending bill that potentially could politicize Churches and transform them into SuperPACs.


There is currently in place a law provision, the so called Johnson Amendment (put in place by the then senator Johnson, later president of the US), which is part of the tax code, prohibiting churches from endorsing political candidates. It has been in place for more than 63 years. But the current “good Christians” in Congress have proposed to make it difficult to enforce the amendment. The proposed provision would stop funding attempts by the IRS to penalize churches that violate tax law by engaging in explicit political action. The bill has not been signed into law yet, but it has already alarmed advocates for the separation of church and state and scholars of tax law.

Eradicating the Johnson Amendment has in fact been a longtime goal of many leaders of the Religious Right, as well as President Donald Trump, who has promised to “totally destroy”” the tax provision and has already weakened its enforcement by signing an executive order in May. Trump’s own lawyer, Jay Sekulow, (a Jew who converted to Evangelical Christianity) was one of the first to advocate for doing away with the law, and even represented a Protestant church that lost its tax-exempt status for running ads against Bill Clinton. In fact, he represents the only church in three decades known to have lost its tax-exempt status for violating the law, which shows that the law is popular even with religious people. Now, however, his dream of politicization may be about to be realized.

No great surprises here. After all, we are presently in the era of President Caligula, the era of alternate realities and the dismantling of democracy, as we know it. But the fact remains that 71 percent of Americans oppose allowing churches to endorse politicians while retaining their tax-exempt status, and this includes majorities of every major U.S. faith group—including white evangelicals. It will not be easy, which does not mean that the fascist leaning politicians in Congress will not try to carry it out, especially when they are encouraged by none other than the example of the current occupant of the White House and his lawyer.

This move by Congress spearhead by the White House, is being duly celebrated by Religious Right leaders, who remain a minority but have long championed repealing the provision as part of their “religious liberty”” agenda, arguing it inhibits their free speech. But the impetus for surreptitiously repealing the Johnson Amendment   may have less to do with “religious liberty” and “free speech” and more to do with using religion as a means to create a new form of political power. The effort worries some legal experts who say altering the Johnson Amendment could expose churches to political manipulation, as it would potentially eliminate the difference between a church and a Super PAC.


And so it goes. As mentioned, this may not be greatly surprising to those of us who follow political and religious trends, given the times we live in, but what remains alarming and disturbing is the apathetic response to those anti-democratic events by both media and public opinion. There seems to be a troubling new normal in the political milieu of the Republic. It must felt that way at the times of the Weimar Republic in the mid-thirties in Germany. I sincerely hope that future events prove me wrong, but unfortunately, the present gloomy omens do not engender much optimism. If anything, they announce the demise of liberty and democracy. Time is running out and the injunction of Thomas Jefferson remains as valid as ever: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!



Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!

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