Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley supports repealing a provision in the federal tax code that bars politicking in the pulpit.
In an Aug. 21 speech to pastors and church members in St. Louis, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate said he favored getting rid of the Johnson Amendment, which bars religious organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Charities that violate the current prohibition could lose their tax exemption with the Internal Revenue Service and may get fined.
“It’s just absolutely unconstitutional,” Hawley says on a recording of the address obtained by the Post-Dispatch.
“Religious liberty is under attack in this country, and it’s a terrible thing. It’s a dangerous thing,” Hawley, who defended religious freedom cases before winning his statewide post in 2016, said in the speech.
On Tuesday, Hawley told the Post-Dispatch that he believed the government shouldn’t be telling pastors what they can and can’t say from their pulpit.
“In the history of this nation, there has been no greater force for good than the preaching of pastors and the speech of religious believers. Claire McCaskill and her Democrat allies need to stop trying to muzzle people of faith,” he said.
Defenders of the 1950s-era Johnson Amendment say easing restrictions on churches could transform donations to churches into tax-free campaign contributions.
Last year, after President Donald Trump vowed to scrap the law, a coalition of more than 4,000 faith leaders wrote a letter to Congress urging members to fight back.
Maggie Garrett, legislative director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the letter-signing initiative demonstrated strong opposition to the president’s vow to get rid of the law.
“As a leader in my religious community, I am strongly opposed to any effort to repeal or weaken current law that protects houses of worship from becoming centers of partisan politics,” the group said in the letter. “Changing the law would threaten the integrity and independence of houses of worship.”
The letter was signed by a range of clergy and lay members, including Methodists, Catholics, Jewish and Unitarian Universalist organizations. Hawley attends an Evangelical Presbyterian church in Columbia, Mo.
In May, Trump signed an executive order that asked the IRS not to enforce the amendment. In July, the House Appropriations Committee voted to keep language in a spending bill that would defund IRS efforts to enforce the amendment. The bill must be passed by the House and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the president.
Asked about Hawley’s position, a spokesman for Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said, “Claire opposes repealing the Johnson Amendment.”
I can’t emphasize how important this race is. Hawley has no respect for what the Founding Fathers and is content to push he extremist religious views on everyone. Meanwhile, McCaskill continues to make this a key issue in the race:
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill continued her criticism of President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, which she says could do lasting economic damage to Missouri’s agriculture and manufacturing economies.
At a meeting Monday in St. Louis, the Democratic senator heard from companies and agricultural-commodity groups affected by the tariffs as Trump announced a trade deal with Mexico.
Trump revealed on Monday that the United States and Mexico reached an accord that would effectively alter the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Washington Post reported the deal would make it harder for China to ship cheaper products through Mexico and then to the United States. It would also change Mexico’s environmental and labor regulations to help prevent companies from leaving the United States.
The move comes after Trump implemented steel and aluminum tariffs to countries like Mexico and Canada. After the St. Louis meeting, McCaskill once again contended that the tariffs were causing more problems than they were solving.
“We’re talking about billions of dollars of loss in Missouri, billions, because of this trade war,” McCaskill said. “So, we’ve got to get this fixed. And it’s not going to be enough to have an outline of an agreement just with Mexico to solve this problem. The markets that are going away are not going to come back right away. And, of course, the biggest market that this room was concerned about was China.”
After Trump implemented the steel and aluminum tariffs, China retaliated against American metal and agricultural commodity exports.
“One of three rows of beans in Missouri go to China. It is a huge export location for Missouri ag,” McCaskill said. “And so, that, obviously, is not resolved. And it doesn’t appear like it’s going to get resolved anytime soon.”
McCaskill isn’t alone in her criticism of the tariffs. Her GOP colleague, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, also blasted them earlier this year, contending they would affect everything from “beer cans to bass boats.” At least two people at the McCaskill event represented entities that made both of those products, including Hudson Moore of Anheuser-Busch.
“The tariff threatens to make this necessary cansheet supply more expensive,” said Moore, the senior director of metal and package procurement for Anheuser Busch. “And unfortunately, it will do nothing to convince domestic aluminum mills to produce more cansheet aluminum.
Let’s make sure McCaskill is ready to defeat this extremist. Click here to donate and get involved with McCaskill’s re-election campaign.