A decidedly low energy Donald Trump addressed the far-right American Renewal Project’s Orlando gathering today, where he stayed clear of any mention of issues like abortion rights or marriage equality, even though the event’s chief organizer, David Lane, had hoped he’d discuss “homosexual totalitarianism.”
Instead, Trump spoke about how he would increase the political power of Christians by repealing the Johnson Amendment, which he falsely claimed prohibited pastors from endorsing candidates and undermined the ability of Christians at large to speak freely about politics. Americans United explains:
In 1954, then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson championed an amendment to the federal tax code that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profits – not just churches – from endorsing or opposing candidates for political office. If they do not follow this rule, they risk paying a fine or losing their tax exemption.
The rule does not, however, stop 501(c)(3) groups from discussing candidates and their positions, nor does it stop houses of worship from advocating for or against legislation and ballot initiatives. Pastors are even allowed to endorse candidates as long as they make clear their endorsement is personal and they do not use the resources of their church to help or hurt specific politicians.
Trump seemed to undermine his own claim that Christians have no political clout or organizational ability in America today when he called on pastors to use their churches to increase voter turnout and distribute early-voting ballots for his presidential bid.
If elected, Trump pledged to be great for “all religions,” joking that a successful presidency would be the only way he could get into heaven: