Dragged before the supreme court of Judea, the Sanhedrin, Peter and the rest of the apostles, followers of Christ Jesus, put it very simply: “We must obey God rather than man.” Forbidden to preach and teach their Good News, they refused to abide by the dictat of the powers that be.
Now, nearly two thousand years later, followers of that same Messiah once again face that choice. The State of New York has just put into law a prohibition on non-profit organizations – INCLUDING RELIGIOUS GROUPS – from endorsing or opposing any candidate for public office.
And lied through their teeth in doing so, as stated right on the Governor’s website, which states in part:
“This is a simple bill that serves an important purpose – to keep in place standards we have had in this country for over sixty years that shield not-for-profits and houses of worship from political entanglement.”
Hardly a “shield” to protect such, but a prohibition on their right of free speech.
They are, of course, talking about the Johnson Amendment (to the Internal Revenue Code) which strips the tax-exempt status of any non-profit, and especially churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc. which dares to speak out against a political candidate – or speak in favor of one. Supposedly this is in response to efforts by the Trump Administration to end enforcement of the Johnson Amendment by the IRS, which we are told prevents religious organizations and other non-profit groups from “being politicized.”
Of course, having religious ministries (presumed to be non-profit) speak out against politicians – not just candidates but (gasp!) incumbents – has been illegal in many places for a very long time. And its been more than just tax “privileges” which have been taken to punish those who spoke out anyway. Speaking out against corruption, immorality, greed, and tyranny gets those in government who practice those things very upset. I know of at least one man who (literally) lost his head because he publicly spoke against his ruler for his immorality. (John the Baptizer, in fact.)
Arclein may point out the truth in his opening commentary last week: “These folks are in dreamland. How about a law prohibiting lobbying as well?” But he may not have explained the full impact. First and foremost, it suppresses the speech of religious and non-profits and their leadership or managers. The fear of losing tax status is no small thing, and just the cost of defending themselves an accusation is daunting. As is the negative publicity of such a claim as being “tax cheaters” and worse. Especially given that so many religious organizations in the state are already under massive attack for their stances on abortion, marriage, sexuality, and other matters of morality.
But at the same time, it is important to point out what should be obvious. Those people who truly have faith in their God will not let a tax law keep them from proclaiming the truth. They will rebel.
ANY religious group, especially Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, which lets the threat of having (more) taxes stolen from them (because they speak out) keep them from speaking are hypocrites. Indeed, they are acting like creatures of the state. They are aiding and abetting the very evil about which they cannot legally speak. In other words, this threat should prove completely ineffective against them.
So what it does is give yet more people – who at least try to submit to government – yet another reason to rebel openly. And teach and encourage others to do so.
Preachers who let fear of investigation by New York tax agencies and courts are cowards. Whatever they claim about commands to obey rulers and “give Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
So in that, Arclein is correct. Hopefully most faithful Christians, Jews, and Muslims will not obey this unlawful command of Albany. No more than they would obey an order to stop breathing. And this law WILL help make it clear who is nothing more than a tool of government.
The same thing applies to other non-profit groups. Why should a non-profit group which provides food and shelter to homeless people not be able to condemn or endorse candidates. Candidates who will attempt to remove the heavy hand of government from interfering and thus creating more homeless and unemployed? Or non-profits attempting to provide REAL economic development? Should they not be able to oppose the incumbent running for reelection? When that incumbent has voted for more and more taxes and prevented free enterprise from providing the goods and services that people want?
But it also shows that New York State is very much afraid of the influence that non-profit organizations could have on elections. It is definitely a real fear. Why do we know that? Because the liberals (whether they call themselves Democrats, Progressives, or Republicans) have used such endorsements for years. Indeed, their candidates speak openly in religious venues, and are constantly endorsed by such groups. It seems to be libertarian and conservative endorsements that are the primary targets of such legal action.
How many reasons for rebellion does a once-free people need?