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Churches Need to Be Beacons of Freedom Again

Lyndon Johnson
(Public Domain Image)

When the liberal Lyndon B. Johnson was running for re-election to the U.S. Senate in Texas in 1954, he faced a tough race and criticism by churches.

So he slipped into federal law an amendment to silence them. Known as the "Johnson Amendment," it has been infringing on the free speech rights of ministers ever since. Preachers have been an essential part of political discourse throughout American history.

Church ministers, more than any other group, mobilized good men in colonial America to stand up for freedom against the tyranny being imposed by England.

Let's not forget that it was from a church, the Old North Church in Boston, that the famous lantern signaled to neighboring towns the direction of the march by British soldiers. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned his famous poem to give tribute to the midnight ride of Paul Revere and the essential role that the church played in communicating the movement of British soldiers.

Longfellow's poem, which was once learned by nearly every American, began with this:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Longfellow then explained the instruction given by Paul Revere:

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch of the North Church tower as a signal light,—one, if by land, and two, if by sea. And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm, for the country folk to be up and to arm.

We would not be the free land we are today if not for the activism of our churches throughout our formative years. But the Johnson Amendment silenced them by threatening their tax-exempt status if they speak out on elections, even in the face of peril to our country.

Donald Trump, when accepting the nomination for president in July, promised to repeal the Johnson Amendment. We need to allow churches to become a beacon of liberty again, as they were in colonial times.

This article was first published at Used with permission.

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