President Donald Trump on Thursday told religious leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast that he was committed to repealing a rule preventing churches from endorsing politicians.
The Johnson Amendment has since 1954 prohibited religious organizations and other non-profits from advocating for or against candidates for office. Religious freedom organizations have long campaigned for its repeal.
Trump said he would “totally destroy” the amendment at Thursday’s breakfast.
“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said the God who gave us life gave us liberty,” the President said. “Jefferson asked, ‘Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?’ Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs.”
“That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” he went on. “I will do that, remember.”
Trump frequently promised religious organizations during his candidacy that he would pursue the amendment’s repeal if elected, touching on the issue in his speech accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president. Language supporting its repeal made its way into the 2016 platform adopted by the Republican National Committee, according to MSNBC.
The IRS, on its website, explains the prohibition as a protection against taxpayers subsidizing political speech from tax-exempt organizations.