Rep. Jody Hice: Midterms Are Spiritual Battle, Johnson Amendment Must Be Repealed This Year

Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia (Photo: Office of Rep. Joy Hice)

Intercessors for America, the pro-Trump group that has been mobilizing its prayer warriors to help elect “godly” candidates in the 2018 midterms, has bumped up the frequency of its monthly prayer calls and will be holding them every week between now and the election. Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia was the featured guest on last Friday’s call.

IFA’s Dave Kubal described this year’s elections as the most important ever, and called Hice “one of my favorite Congressmen.” Hice returned the favor, saying that intercessory prayer activists are “the most important group in America right now.” He said that the “evidence of intercession is abundant in ways we cannot even fathom,” citing as examples the election of Trump and his ability to name Supreme Court justices, and the prayer meetings and Bible studies happening “all over the place” in Washington and at the U.N. and the Pentagon.

What we’re facing…is a spiritual battle in this country. It’s not politically centered. The epicenter of this battle is a spiritual battle. And the way you deal with that is by spiritual terms. And the key part of that, obviously, is prayer.

I just thank everyone on this call for understanding the critical role that you play in our country, especially at this point in our nation’s history. …

We literally have two opposing sides. We are facing literal, as you may want to refer to radical left-wing extremism, but even beyond that, it is actually an attempt toward socialism, that we have fought wars against. Who would ever think that our nation would even be considering taking a step toward socialism? But that’s where we are right now. And this election could not be more important from both a political perspective as well as a spiritual one.

Hice warned that if Democrats take the House, they would immediately “begin pursuing impeachment, be it against President Trump or Chief Justice Kavanaugh [sic].” Under Democratic control, he said, taxes would rise, the military would “suffer,” there would be more sanctuary cities and less border protection, and religious freedom would be threatened.

Asked about pundits giving Democrats a 75 percent chance of winning a House majority, Hice noted that the same pundits had given Hillary Clinton a greater than 90 percent chance of winning the presidency in 2016. Hice took comfort in the fact that Trump moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem because God said that He would bless those who bless Israel.

Hice prayed that God would “intervene” in the midterms, and that the church would “take a stand”:

We pray also for the church to take a stand, and that this would be the finest hour for the church to stand right now in this country, and take its place as the lead in the battle that we’re facing, which at the heart is a spiritual battle.

Kubal later prayed specifically “that those toss-ups would go in the favor of conservative values” and asked people to pray that “God would have his way” in the elections.

Kubal also invited Hice to speak about a particular issue that is “on your heart”—the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits direct electoral activity by churches and other tax-exempt charitable nonprofits. Religious Right leaders portray it as a dire threat to religious leaders’ ability to speak out on political issues, which is a ridiculous charge given the level of political engagement by religious conservatives on topics like abortion, LGBTQ equality, the courts, and politics generally.

When Trump sought to consolidate Religious Right support after winning the GOP nomination, one of his primary promises, in addition to giving the Religious Right the Supreme Court of their dreams, was to make Christian conservatives more politically powerful by doing away with the Johnson Amendment—which would allow churches to become money-laundering operations offering tax-exempt conduits for dark-money political funders. Trump, who has essentially directed that the provision not be enforced, has pledged to sign a repeal if it comes to his desk.

Hice has been on this issue for a long time. As a pastor, he was an early participant in the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a campaign to undermine the Johnson Amendment by getting pastors to endorse candidates from the pulpit and dare the IRS to go after them.

Once in Congress, Hice joined House Majority Whip Steve Scalise to introduce H.R. 6195—which they labelled the “Free Speech Fairness Act”—to repeal the Johnson Amendment. In 2017, Hice celebrated Republican repeal plans during an address to a “Congressional Pastors Briefing” organized by Christian-nation “historian” David Barton. “This is our country, it’s our turf and God has placed us here to be stewards at such a time as this and to stand in the gap,” Hice told the pastors.

Hice told IFA’s activists that the repeal was included in the Republican tax bill, but was stripped out by the Senate parliamentarian—for which he said he wished the parliamentarian had been removed. He said he is now in “major conversations” with leaders of the House and Senate to get the repeal included in some large, must-pass bill this year, because it is likely to be more difficult to repeal it in the next Congress.

Kubal invited Hice to lead the hundreds of prayer activists in an appeal to God on this issue. From Hice’s prayer:

God, the enemy, we know, roars like a roaring lion and creates fear. Father we do unite right now in asking that you would miraculously, powerfully intervene and provide some avenue for us to be able to attach this repeal of the Johnson Amendment, this Congress, into some bill, some piece of legislation that would be able to move forward. And to pass both the House and the Senate, and receive the signature from the president.

Lord, we’re asking, we’re pleading with you to intervene and give us creativity and innovation, direction, and favor for this repeal to move forward. And we ask you for that provision in Jesus’s name.

While the Religious Right’s influence in today’s Republican Party is pervasive, it’s hard to imagine a member of Congress that more fully reflects the far-right, conspiracy-embracing, Christian nationalist wing of the party than Hice. In 2015, Hice sent a video message to the dominionist “Future Conference” in which he warned that secular government leads to divorce, teen pregnancy, gang violence and big government.

When he decided to run for Congress in 2014, he purged the online archives of his radio broadcasts, but there was still a long record of disturbing public statements about Muslims, LGBTQ people, church-state separation. He has said that Satan is behind judges who have “chipped away” and “our Christian rights.” He has likened public schools to totalitarian indoctrination centers. He embraced Religious Right warnings that the appearance of “blood moons” is a precursor to “world-changing, shaking-type events.”

Hice believes that “any weapon that our government and law enforcement possesses ought to be allowed for individuals to possess in this country.” He explained, “The Second Amendment is about defending ourselves against potentially tyrannical government. You cannot defend yourself with a BB gun if your opponent has cannons and bazookas and missiles.” He praised the Bundy ranchers and their supporters who engaged in an armed standoff with federal officials to defend their refusal to pay grazing fees they owed the federal government.

We noted before the 2014 election:

Hice outlines his political beliefs and fears in his book, “It’s Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America,” in which he claims that abortion rights make the U.S. worse than Nazi Germany; endorses the fringe “nullification” theory; argues that Islam “does not deserve First Amendment protection”; and spells out his worries about gay people trying to “sodomize” children and persecute Christians, fearing that children will be “preyed upon” by gay “recruitment” efforts until they embrace “destructive,” “militant homosexuality.”