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GOP Seeks to Ditch IRS Law on Church Political Speech

When the Rev. Gus Booth found out the IRS was dropping its inquiry into Warroad Community Church where he preaches, he was actually disappointed.

“We wanted to go to court,” Booth told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “This is the First Amendment vs. the IRS code. One standard of the law would win.”

The IRS has almost never fully enforced the Johnson Amendment, which the new Republican Party platform calls for getting rid of. The language of the platform is:

Places of worship for the first time in our history have reason to fear the loss of tax-exempt status merely for espousing and practicing traditional religious beliefs that have been held across the world for thousands of years, and for almost four centuries in America. We value the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith. Republicans believe the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs, and therefore we urge the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.


Republican nominee Donald Trump echoed the platform’s policy position in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday night, saying, “An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views.”

The IRS commenced its probe of the Warroad, Minnesota, church in early 2009 after Booth endorsed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the 2008 presidential election. The church had to turn over documents and minutes from meetings. However, in July he got a letter saying the probe was dropped for procedural reasons, but with a warning that it might start again.

Booth, the author of the 2014 book “Shhhh! Be Quiet Christian,” was one of 33 pastors across the country to endorse a candidate on “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” a day promoted annually by Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty organization. The point was to prompt the government to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status, creating grounds for a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment.