Also he promised to end the separation between church and state by eliminating the Johnson Amendment.
President Trump vowed Thursday to overturn a law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, a potentially huge victory for the religious right and a gesture to his political base.
Mr. Trump said his administration would “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from engaging in political activity at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status.
Repealing the law would require approval by Congress. Certain tax-exempt organizations — in this case, churches — are not allowed to openly endorse or campaign for political candidates. If they do, under existing law, they risk losing the benefits of their tax-exempt status.
Speaking to a gathering of religious leaders, the president also defended his immigration policy, brushed aside concern about his harsh phone calls with foreign leaders, and ridiculed Arnold Schwarzenegger for his poor ratings in replacing Mr. Trump as host of “Celebrity Apprentice.”
He did not mention an executive order on religious freedom, which critics said would restrict the rights of lesbians and gay men; a draft of the order has circulated, but administration officials have denied that it will be adopted.
In addressing the issue of churches and political speech, Mr. Trump said, “I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”
He added that “freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is under serious threat.”
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump promised to push for repeal of the law, which was passed in 1954 and named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who proposed the change to the tax code.
Churches would then be free to endorse candidates and donate millions while still remaining tax-exempt, something that would certainly tip the balance of power in US politics permanently towards the GOP. But hey, no difference between the parties, right?