The Johnson Amendment restricting the speech of churches has always been heretical and unconstitutional.
It’s a religious law with its own interpretation of religion. It assumes that the state has the authority to regulate, through force, the religious practice of the people. This also makes it heretical as it assumes that the church is beneath or under the authority of the state. To be clear, the church has one head; that head is Christ.
This maxim was written into the Bill of Rights by the Princeton trained James Madison. He wrote an expression of the Reformed understanding into the Constitution of the United States:
“Article 1 – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”3
This was a political statement of law institutionalizing a theological truth, being that the United States Congress shall not, has neither the authority nor the power to, make a law in regard to the church. I understand that this isn’t the modernist reading of the text as a “living document” but it is the reading of the text that says what it means. It means there is a separation of church and state and that the state (at least the Federal government) can’t make laws that attempt to assume a supervisory status over the government of the church.
Now here, we can easily see the cultural framework for the decision. Most Americans were from English, Scottish, Irish, German, Dutch, Swiss, African and Scandinavian backgrounds and had a well developed dislike for a “state church”, i.e. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, etc. A church that was under the jurisdiction and administration of the state was to them, an unworkable and unbiblical imposition upon the Kingship of Christ and the practice of true religion.
So here, enters in the state, the government, in direct opposition to the law, and makes a law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise thereof, their right to publish those opinions, abridging freedom of speech and the right of the people to peaceably assemble. The people do not have the right to assemble in any way approximating the intent of the law if they indeed have no right to speak freely when they do.
Here’s the rub, not only does the law threaten the church with a deprivation of their rights and property should they violate the Johnson Amendment, but it makes speech against the act a violation of the act, since speaking against the act restricting political speech would be itself, political speech in violation of the act.
It shows a very real aggression against the very nature of what it is to be a church. The reason for the existence of the church is to speak. The freedom of speech enjoyed by the individual as a political person is largely derivative of the freedom of speech assumed and applied by the church in history, often at the cost of martyrs. We speak, and when we do, we will not be held back by the laws of men. Their threats are meant as intimidation but we are well suited to overcome such aggression through love.
Still, there’s no reason to just accept the moral and legal machinations of those set on restricting our freedoms given not by men but by God. Here, we see the Johnson Amendment as a violation of both human and divine law. It’s violation is both earthly and spiritual. Were we to submit to it or obey it even in the least, we would be betraying Christ and so our reason for being. Our commission is to preach the Gospel but in that, the “full counsel of God”, and that full counsel inevitably holds social and political ramifications.
The love for God and our neighbor is good for Heaven but meant for the Earth. So, we will not be intimidated, bullied or broken. We will not relent. They can take our monies, our freedom, our property or our lives but we will not submit. Better men than we have had their blood spilled by an angry and merciless state intent on the consolidation of earthly power and immune to reason. The church has ever been and will ever be a voice of conscience and moral clarity to those bent on the institutionalization of myriad evils. Simply, the state wants us quiet because it must silence the only real counterpoint to it’s presumptions of unchecked power.
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.” 1
“I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions & doubts on unessential points. The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded ag’st. by an entire abstinance of the Gov’t. from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, & protecting each sect ag’st. trespasses on its legal rights by others.”2 Madison