Religious Extremists Funding Republicans in Exchange for Legislating LGBTQ Americans Out of Existence
Trump has been making every effort possible to destroy The Johnson Amendment, an 1954 law introduced by former President Lyndon B. Johnson into section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code dealing with tax-exempt religious organizations. The objective was to restrict the involvement in partisan politics by churches that wanted to be exempt from paying taxes.
The Amendment specifically states:
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”
While Trump and his loyalists in senate have yet to achieve the goal of dismantling the law, a proposal to do just that on behalf of Trump currently sits in the Ways and Means Committee awaiting deliberation courtesy of Steve Scalise, R-La.
Unfortunately, Trump has created a scenario where removing the law is no longer necessary to achieve his goal. Rendering it obsolete, Trump issued his own Executive Order, signed May 4th, 2017, demanding the US Treasury Department be lenient in its enforcement of The Johnson Amendment against religious organizations.
Specifically, the Executive Order reads:
“The Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury.”
By introducing an executive order that contradicts the Johnson Amendment, he bypassed Congress putting it immediately into action.
The intent to remove the limitations of Church activity in the political arena is purely self serving. The vast majority of Trump’s supporters identify as Christian or religious and he has made a grandiose display of pandering the religious leaders of multi-million dollar organizations such as Family Research Council who hosts the annual anti-LGBTQ Value Voters Summit. Trump was the first American President to speak at the convention in 2017, despite heavy criticism. The following year, Vice President Mike Pence gave a keynote speech and Trump returned again in 2019 promising the religious attendees he would deliver America back to God and that his detractors were trying to “Silence them.”
Trump’s mission was to agitate those whose “personal beliefs” seem to always parlay into “Public Bigotry.” These groups could now help him fund his re-election campaign with the billions of dollars, collectively, in un-taxed donations from their own supporters. With access to all that money, Trump will have formidable financial strength behind him in 2020.
Also, one can simply not ignore the influence of these religious leaders, some who have football sized stadiums where they deliver each Sunday Sermon to 30,000 worshipers. Others have their own radio shows, television programs and some travel across the country doing salvation tours that draw in audiences bigger than rock music concerts. With the endorsement of such a powerful network singing his praises from behind a pulpit to masses of eager listeners, his influence permeates the entire religious community… many of whom will also transition to individual donors themselves, especially if they believe what they’re told; That he’s being harassed by Democrats who want to run baby chop shops; That he’s being ridiculed for his loyalty to the Jesus they love… That he’s suffering for them… to protect them.
It doesn’t have to be true, it merely has to place them in a state of panic.
Since Trump’s Executive Order allowing Churches to become politically active without risk of losing their tax exempt status, many have endorsed him, had him on their programs, or devote time on stage to exalt him. Some of these ministers have compared him to Jesus Christ himself or have told their followers he is ordained by God to fulfill Biblical prophecy.
Trump has heavily benefited from the Religious community. He has provided enough optics throughout his term to keep up the appearance of a good Christian man, his entire history set aside… as well as most of his current language and behavior that equates him to a national embarrassment for most other Americans. Despite this, Evangelicals are all in.
But still, in these days of quid pro quo, these religious extremists want something in return.
That cost, unfortunately, is the rights and equalities of LGBTQ Americans. These wealthy organizations and religious leaders aren’t just funneling money to Trump, but all of his biggest, loudest supporters in every branch of Government. This is why we’ve seen such inordinately aggressive tactics put into play by the likes of Lindsay Graham, Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy and Mark Meadows. If they can maintain the fanciful- if not completely theatrical- appearance of complete loyalty to Trump, they are richly rewarded with donations to their campaigns to stay in power.
Trump has bragged profusely about his ability to unseat any member in the political body who does not fall in line with his agenda. Most Republicans, especially those who disagree with his chest thumping antics and destructive policies keep their head down, refusing to comment when asked out of fear- not of Trump, but of his base. They’re the voters and they will do what he tells them to do. If he endorses their opponent, they are keenly aware that they’ll likely lose their next bid for their chair. If Republicans covet anything, it’s power. Currying favor with Trump- or at least not appearing on his radar by disagreeing with him publicly- is simply a means of safeguarding their political career.
This is why we’re here today.
This is why I have to keep writing these essays. That you have to keep reading about LGBTQ people being severed from our rights and our dignities while deliberate acts of those in power remain intent on impeding our ability to function in greater society is soul destroying. That we’re being banned from the military, seeing terms that define us erased, losing access to equal, safe healthcare as they use legislation to effectively remove us from society only stands to relegate us to refugees in our own country. This will kill hundreds of thousands of us.
And we just watch it get worse. Already our civil right have come up for debate and we wait for the verdict, which will be passed down from the Supreme Court in June, with bated breath. Our future is in jeopardy. Evangelical Christians and their political benefactors are holding our nation hostage as we stand by helplessly and witness our own lawmakers wage an outright war in the name of God against LGBTQ folks across America, from sea to shining sea… we have no choice but to keep reminding each other we’ll be okay.
We have very few politicians actively fighting for our right to exist. While those who are given time on the floor of the House or Senate speak, we are rarely the issue they speak about. They may consider themselves allies because they don’t parrot Trump’s septic agenda and chant “Make America White again, Christian again, straight again, cisgender again,” but the problem lies in the fact that they’re not bothering to say much at all leaving the cacophony of voices in opposition to our lives far louder than those who believe we deserve to be here.
It’s certainly nice that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would make an impulsive appearance on a cis guys video stream of playing Donkey Kong around the clock to raise funds for a trans children’s charity, and I love that a few congresswomen have placed Trans flags next to their office doors alongside the American Flag and the Gay Pride Flag, it’s an incredible gesture of inclusiveness, the optics of it are beautiful… but on the senate floor, no one is calling out the fact that the rights of an entire community have been consistently bartered away to appease christian radicals and for the political gain of the President and his acolytes.
We know this to be true, because there is no logical reason- absolutely nothing rooted in reality- that has warranted such blatant, targeted attacks on a singular community except the fact that Christian radicals are intolerant of the progress we’ve made. They’re mad we can get married. They’re outraged they couldn’t put up “No Gays Allowed” signs in their restaurant windows. They’re upset that some of us use public bathrooms. The Christian war against the LGBTQ community long predates Donald Trump and his henchmen- but he is the first President to place his Presidential stamp of approval on it and join their ranks in ruining millions of lives leveraging the law.
I’m still not quite certain what disjointed reality I’ve slipped into where someone with at least a thread of moral fiber remaining doesn’t stop cold in their tracks and says “This doesn’t sound American. These don’t sound like policies ensconced in “We The People.” Why aren’t Transgender people entitled to the American Dream…” whatever that is. In the bellows of opposition coming from the parapets of power, it seems like we’re the only ones returning fire from the ground.
People love to use the old argument “If you want change, go vote.” That’s indeed practical advice, except when that process is compromised, which 17 intelligence agencies determined it was; Or when our districts are divided to intentionally favor Republican politicians in state elections. You compound that with voter suppression that targeted communities of color in the last two elections and it feels futile. How do we continue to vote with confidence? There’s reason for optimism… but complacency is what led us here, and we cannot fall victim to that again.
In the last midterm election, enough Democrats took seats away from radical conservatives to reclaim control of the House of Representatives, the branch populated with individuals representing constituents throughout the 50 states. One of their first points of action was to pass the Equality Act, a measure to protect LGBTQ people from the sweeping discrimination that is being enabled by Trump by proxy of religion.
Republican Mitch McConnell, the Majority leader in Senate where Conservative still have absolute control, has vowed to “Kill” the Equality Act the moment it is delivered to the Senate Floor for the final vote preventing it from being passed into law. Again, this is a favor to the religious extremists funneling money into McConnell’s coffers.
Personally, I don’t want to spend another three years writing about the senseless killings of Trans women of color, or more young Trans kids committing suicide, or new laws being passed that segregate us from “normal” society, or bemoaning the fact that we’re being systematically excluded from every major national debate- even the 2020 census proposes to erase us from society.
This isn’t a debate anymore, where two sides deliberate the pros and cons of domestic issues. This is a radical attack on a segment of the population that is being threatened with each new state bill or ominous 4 am tweet. This isn’t a conversation where we sit down and present our case- we’re not given a voice, no one is volunteering to represent these issues on the senate floors, thus, we have no defense. So we keep rallying, marching, holding each other up during the darkest of days, and demonstrating solidarity when the goal, clearly, is to divide us.
We’ve reached the point where delivering counter points for the sake of it- reinforcing what is right instead of wrong and attempting to inject logic and rational is pointless. Compassion for LGBTQ issues doesn’t exist on the other side. We’re attempting to reason with insanity and that’s a battle that is never won. They stick their fingers in their ears, holler something about Jesus and pedophiles and men wearing dresses to rape little girls, and nothing to the contrary is received. Their rejection of a reality which consists of people not like them exceeds our ability to teach them; To radical Christians, the idea that we are a bunch of villains and deviants is only validated by the actions of our President and Congress people who continue to push us to the fringes, out of their space.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all locked horns with a Transphobic zealot quoting bible verses, or a conservative- who usually ends up on the front page of the daily news for asking little boys to sit on his face- who insists that Trans people are mentally ill; A sort of mass psychosis.
But silence has never gotten us anywhere.
And silence will never be remembered.