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What Is Trump’s Most Important Promise?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
February 6, 2017

Like any candidate for political office, Donald Trump made a lot of promises he vowed to keep if elected.  Unlike most elected officials, however, he seems determined to keep every one of them. So much so that the increasingly laughable Cable News Network (CNN), which long ago ceased to be an objective journalistic enterprise, ran an article that stated in all seriousness that “the determination to keep campaign promises is verging on an obsession inside the Trump White House.”  Deriding a politician for being determined to keep his promises? Perhaps Cable News Network should rename itself Comedy News Network.  Who but the zombies of the Left takes it seriously any longer?

At any rate, the most important promise Trump has made is not that he would create jobs, cut taxes, secure the borders, “drain the swamp”, or even that he would appoint conservative justices to the United States Supreme Court, as important as the Court is.  No, in my view his most important promise is the one least reported and which seemed to have disappeared after the election, only to emerge with renewed vigor at the National Prayer Breakfast, when Trump declared: “I will get rid of, totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear.”

What is the Johnson Amendment?  It is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code spearheaded by Lyndon Johnson when he was a Senator from Texas, which “prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. 501(c)(3) organizations are the most common type of nonprofit organization in the United States, ranging from charitable foundations to universities and churches.” Specifically, the Amendment prohibits all such tax-exempt organizations, including all churches and religious organizations — meaning also the Catholic Church — from intervening in political campaigns by supporting or opposing a particular candidate, under penalty of a potentially disastrous loss of tax-exempt status.

The Amendment is a blatant violation of the free-speech rights of the Catholic Church as well as other religious entities, threatening to cripple them with loss of their tax-exemptions should they dare to support political candidates whose positions are in accord with the Gospel and the divine and natural law, or to oppose candidates whose positions are radically evil (favoring abortion, euthanasia, legalization of “gay marriage,” and so forth).

Even the left-leaning “fact-checker” organization Politifact admits that Johnson pushed his Amendment through Congress as an act of naked retaliation against opponents of his reelection to the Senate:

“The restriction was championed by LBJ in 1954 when Johnson was a U.S. senator running for re-election. A conservative nonprofit group that wanted to limit the treaty-making ability of the president produced material that called for electing his primary opponent, millionaire rancher-oilman Dudley Dougherty, and defeating Johnson. There was no church involved.

“Johnson, then Democratic minority leader, responded by introducing an amendment to Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code dealing with tax-exempt charitable organizations, including groups organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literacy and educational purposes, or to prevent cruelty to children or animals. It said, in effect, that if you want to be absolved from paying taxes, you couldn't be involved in partisan politics.”

So why is Trump’s promise to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment his most important?  Because, humanly speaking, the electoral process is the mainspring of social change in Western democracies, yet the Catholic Church is effectively prohibited from harnessing the power of that process by specifically informing the consciences of Catholics concerning how they ought to cast their votes — not only for the common good, but for the glory and honor of God, Whose will must be done on earth as it is in Heaven.   

Imagine the impact on American politics if the relatively few courageous bishops, joined by numerous Catholic non-profits, could, without fear of government reprisal, openly advocate for or against candidates based upon their stands concerning moral issues.

I am reminded here of the wise words of the late, great Romano Amerio in Iota Unum, his masterful study of the post-Vatican II crisis in the Church: “Faith in Providence thus proclaims the possibility that the world might rise and be healed by a metanoia which it cannot initiate but which it is capable of accepting once it is offered.”  The offering of that metanoia by the Church to a society on the brink of total depravity depends in large measure upon her ability freely to influence the political process, for God employs human agents and human means as the secondary causes for the execution of His divine will. 

And that is why Trump’s promise to “totally destroy” the pernicious Johnson Amendment is his most important.  For as Pope Leo XIII exhorted Catholics in the midst of the brutal triumph of the modern state system over the Christian commonwealth:

“[I]t is the duty of all Catholics worthy of the name and wishful to be known as most loving children of the Church, to reject without swerving whatever is inconsistent with so fair a title; to make use of popular institutions, so far as can honestly be done, for the advancement of truth and righteousness; to strive that liberty of action shall not transgress the bounds marked out by nature and the law of God; to endeavour to bring back all civil society to the pattern and form of Christianity which We have described.”

Our Lady, Patroness of the Americas, intercede for us!