There are lots of reasons to dislike what President Trump (I hate writing those two words) is doing to our country. He's out to wreck the environment, trash human rights, destroy our relations with international allies, further enrich the already wealthy, and make women into second-class citizens.
But now there's another big reason to Resist The Idiot: news that Trump is out to make our constitutional democracy into a Christian theocracy.
When I woke up this morning the first outrage to appear on my laptop was "Trump Vows to 'Destroy' Law Banning Political Activity by Churches."
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.
So basically Trump wants to turn churches into PACs, Political Action Committees. People still would be able to claim donations they put in a collection plate as a charitable contribution, but then a church could use that money to try to get certain political candidates elected.
It's bad enough that the IRS hasn't been enforcing the ban on political speech from the pulpit. Now Trump wants churches to be able to spend money on political campaigns, which is totally against the intent and purpose of why certain organizations get designated as non-profit.
Currently tax-exempt non-profit organizations like churches can't engage in political activity.
To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
Look, I'm all for free speech.
But if churches and other religious groups want to speak freely about political issues, and financially support political candidates, then they need to give up their tax-exempt non-profit status. It's wrong for them to get the IRS benefits given to groups that serve a broad community purpose, and then use money donated to them for narrow political ends.
I came across outrage #2 later today: "Leaked Draft of Trump's Religious Freedom Order Reveals Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination."
The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.
...The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as “sweeping” and “staggering,” may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted. It also, by extending some of its protections to one particular set of religious beliefs, would risk violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” said Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on church-state separation and religious freedom.
Well, as I've blogged about many times, it's crazy to allow anyone to be exempt from federal laws just because they have a religious belief that is at odds with a law. (See here, here, here, and here.)
A belief is a belief. It shouldn't matter whether someone's subjective belief rests on a religious foundation, or on some other foundation. Either beliefs are irrelevant to whether a law needs to be obeyed, or beliefs allow us to claim an "opt-out" from any law we choose -- in which case laws are pretty much ineffectual.
Let's say that someone has a firmly held belief that getting drunk and driving at high speeds is a deep religious experience that demonstrates their faith in God's ability to protect the faithful, sort of like when true believers handle poisonous snakes, or forego medical treatment.
Should this person be able to tell a police officer, "You can't arrest me because I was acting in accord with my religious belief." This would be absurd, right?
So how is any less absurd that someone should be able to fire an employee who is gay, transgender, or found out to have had an abortion? Is it OK for a business to be able to discriminate against people because the owner has some weird religious belief? How is this different from an individual discriminating simply because they hate gays, blacks, jews, or whoever?
It seems clear that Trump and his wacko band of supporters are determined to make the United States into a right-wing theocracy, like a Christian Taliban.
The Constitution should make this impossible, but given Republican control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, Trump has the ability to go a long way toward fulfilling his theocratic fantasy through Supreme Court appointments, rewriting of laws, and so on.
So we must resist. With all our strength. Because the United States is too wonderful a country to lose to a bigoted, hate-filled idiot.