Ryan Reid: “Marx and the Johnson Amendment”

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The article The Johnson Amendment , Which Trump Vows to ‘Destroy’, Explained, discussed the history of the so called Johnson Amendment, named after President Lyndon Johnson, and it’s role in combating the involvement of places of worship in American politics. Introduced in 1954, by the then Senator Johnson, the amendment edited the tax code to prevent non-profit organizations or tax exempt organizations from funding political campaigns. While Johnson had not initially intended to specifically bar churches from political involvement, as they counted as tax exempt, they were, and continue to be, included in this exemption. The article concludes by explaining that President Trump had promised to repeal this amendment while campaigning, in a bid to pique the interest of religious conservatives, who had previously been unimpressed by his campaign.

Opponents of the Johnson Amendment have claimed that it infringes upon their rights of free speech. Despite this, proponent of the amendment claim that it protects politics from the threat of churches being utilized as Super PAC’s (Political Action Committees). Proponents believe that by allowing churches to have monetary influence in politics, politicians will become subservient to their whims. Interestingly, proponents seem to agree with the theoretician Karl Marx, that when religion is not a private affair, it quickly becomes a tool of economic and political oppression, an oppression that seeks to maintain the status quo. Proponents, unwittingly, thus agree that when religion and politics become intertwined, a system of false consciousness is propagated. The privileged groups that Marx refers to in his theory, will become the politicians and the groups of the religious who fund them, and the subordinate groups will be all those unable to funnel money into the system of politics through a church, in other words the common voter. Ultimately the issue can be framed in an argument of freedom of speech, a constitutionally guaranteed right, and the separation of church and state, which is also constitutionally guaranteed.

Main article used: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/us/politics/johnson-amendment-trump.html

Additional article to provide background information and perspective: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/how-trump-is-trying-to-put-more-money-in-politics/493823/

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