For the last several years, dozens of members of Congress have joined Religious Right leaders every April for a “Washington: A Man of Prayer” event held inside the U.S. Capitol at which speakers have repeatedly warned that 9/11 was God’s judgment on America and that God will punish this nation for legalizing same-sex marriage.
Last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke at the event and today, Dan Cummins, the founder and one of the key organizers of the annual prayer gathering, published a piece in Charisma saying that having godly leaders like Ryan in office is a sign that America is undergoing “a third spiritual awakening.”
Ryan, Cummins revealed, is a big fan of right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton and has been busy laying the groundwork for repealing the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and all tax-exempt organizations 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.”
Barton, of course, is a notoriously anti-gay Religious Right activist who has repeatedly stated that we will never find a cure for AIDS because the disease is God’s punishment for homosexuality and whose historical work is so shoddy that his book on Thomas Jefferson was withdrawn from publication by its Christian publisher.
Speaker Ryan is an avid fan of historian David Barton. “I listen to him all the time, even in my car while driving,” he said. Because of Barton’s teachings, Speaker Ryan is very knowledgeable of the 1954 Johnson Amendment (putting political speech restrictions on pastors from their pulpits) and its devastating effects on our culture.
He understands “first causative principle”—that the 1954 Johnson Amendment eventually was responsible for prayer and Bible reading being taken out of schools in 1963, the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and redefining of marriage in 2016—all because pastors were silenced from speaking out politically. That’s why Speaker Ryan wants the Johnson Amendment repealed legislatively. He knows pastors being set free to preach again to the nation regarding these moral and political issues is a must to turn the nation around.
In early January at the Republican Retreat in Baltimore, Ryan and I began discussing how Congress could legislatively repeal it. Later, I spent one hour educating Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (chair of Republican Conference, whose husband is a pastor) and her entire senior staff on the Johnson Amendment toward the goal of repealing it.
Rep. Kevin Brady is chair of the Ways and Means Committee through which any legislation to repeal would have to come to the floor, and he is totally on board. Ryan directed me to Brady. Brady also gave me approval to hold three Sunday services (beginning Sept. 4) in the Ways and Means Committee room in the Capitol. Brady told me with a big smile on his face, “I’m thrilled you’re having church in the Ways and Means Committee Room. Glad to let you use it.”
So, long before Donald Trump said anything about repealing the Johnson Amendment, Speaker Ryan had been working on it. For the first time in 60 years, the opportunity to repeal the Johnson Amendment exists because of Ryan’s leadership, spirituality and love of Jesus! Now we need a Republican president in the Oval Office to sign a repeal into law (which is more effective than just an executive order)!
Speaker Ryan has formed a committee of five members of Congress (to which I was invited to participate) to report to him on inviting pastors to the Capitol to have lunch with him and arrange congressional-clergy townhall meetings in the Cannon Caucus Room. We are planning our second one in November, and we’ll form an email alert system so Speaker Ryan can contact pastors on how to inform their churches to pray for America.
This is unprecedented and historic! This is God answering our prayers.