Donald Trump took to the stage Friday at the annual Values Voters Summit, a gathering of social conservatives in Washington, D.C., and announced his plan for the afterlife. “We are going to repeal the Johnson Amendment,” Trump said. “...I figure it’s the only way I’m getting to heaven.”
The Johnson Amendment, named after then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, bans churches and tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. New data from the latest CNN/ORC poll shows Trump is supported by 73 percent of white evangelicals, but not every religious leader agrees with his views—nor the view that churches should take a stand when it comes to politics.
Rev. Emmett G. Price III is a Professor and the Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist who writes for Huffington Post and Bay Windows. Both reverends joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to discuss the role of the black church as a political space, the role of politicians in churches, and their very opposing views on the Johnson Amendment.
PRICE: I’m 100 percent on the side of finding it inappropriate for pastors to endorse candidates. We have to serve people, you can’t serve a political party, and you can’t serve a bipartisan segment of society. I knowingly have Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians and Green people in my congregation, and woe is me if I treated somebody with preferential treatment because their political party is the same as mine—it’s just not right.
MONROE: It’s important, even as pastors, and you’re right, we serve the people. It’s important to have the separation of church and state, but I think what we can do as a church is to educate members about pending legislation. I have certainly done that. All candidates and elected officials can speak at church services, that’s exactly what they do, and we can also rev up a sort of non-partisan voter registration drive, and many black churches continue to do that.
I do not subscribe to elected officials coming in and giving the stump speech in the church service, because the church service is an engagement with God.
PRICE: I do not subscribe to elected officials coming in and giving the stump speech in the church service, because the church service is an engagement with God, and that certainly is a disruptive force. If you want to do it after the service in the parking lot, or in your fellowship hall, that’s great—but that time when people come together, they’re coming together to fellowship with one another int the auspices of worship.
MONROE: No. I have them in the service, because number one, the black church has always functioned as a multiple site, it’s not only place where we go to worship, but it’s also where we go to get information, and I think that they need a blessing too, these elected officials that come and be a part of our worships’ service. I think it’s important that they are part of the service that day. Also, let’s remember there are some times when church is over—because it takes a long time for black church to be over—people are running out of there. I just left two minutes ago.
Reverend Emmett G. Price III is a Professor and the Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Reverend Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist who writes for Huffington Post and Bay Windows. To hear their full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.