(Washington, DC, Nov. 21, 2016)—The American Humanist Association expresses alarm and concern for the separation of church and state in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s meeting with Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of the evangelical Liberty University and son of well-known religious right preacher, Rev. Jerry Falwell.
In September, Trump promised to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits religious and other tax-exempt organizations from engaging in political activity, including supporting candidates or lobbying. Falwell has long opposed the Johnson Amendment and called for it to be struck down. In the 1980s, after supporting a political action committee, Falwell’s father and his Old Time Gospel Hour program were investigated by the IRS, which revoked the program’s tax-exempt status for 1986 and 1987 for violating the Johnson Amendment and the separation of church and state.
“The Johnson Amendment is a key protection that safeguards our constitutional right to be free from religious coercion in government,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Religious organizations cannot enjoy a tax-exempt privilege while at the same time be permitted to meddle in politics.”
Speckhardt continued, “If the Johnson Amendment were repealed, it would unleash enormous power for churches within the religious right to behave as political action committees, funneling funds and resources to candidates who would advance their agendas, discriminating against humanists, atheists and the LGBTQ community as well as curtailing women’s reproductive freedoms. We cannot allow religious organizations to so blatantly violate the Establishment Clause and undo many years’ worth of progress in creating a more open, just, and equitable society.”
According to the Washington Post and Associated Press, Falwell has expressed interest in influencing education under Trump’s administration. In addition to his insistence that religious organizations should be permitted to influence politics, Falwell also expressed support for school vouchers, which the American Humanist Association opposes for their potential to use public money to fund religious school. Falwell’s Liberty University also teaches biblical creationism in science classrooms, despite the consensus among scientists that the Theory of Evolution explains the origins of life on Earth.
The American Humanist Association will continue monitoring Falwell and other appointments in the Trump administration.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
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