Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump promised a group of pastors Thursday that he will unmuzzle and empower the “silenced” church and increase church attendance by repealing the Johnson Amendment if he is elected president in November.
The Johnson Amendment, which is a piece of legislation prepared by former President Lyndon Johnson and passed by Congress in 1954, is often described as prohibiting charitable organizations (including churches) from endorsing political candidates.
Trump took aim at the legislation while speaking at a two-day event which began Thursday at the Hyatt Regency on International Drive in Orlando, Florida, entitled “Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project.”
The New York City billionaire explained in his address that he first became aware of the muzzling effect of the Johnson Amendment on the church when he first met with a group of religious leaders several months ago.
He said he realized that the pastors loved him and supported him but when he asked them for their public support they got silent.
“There was like silence in the room. Silence. I said ‘What is this? What’s going on? Why is there silence?'”
He claimed that the pastors revealed after a lot of prodding that they didn’t want to lose their tax-exempt status for supporting him because of the Johnson Amendment.
Three months after that initial meeting, Trump said he met with a similar group of religious leaders again after doing some homework on the legislation.
“It was Lyndon Johnson, in the 1970s,” he stated incorrectly.
Johnson added the amendment in 1954 and was a retired ex-president from 1969 until his death in 1973.