A new poll shows that Americans do not want houses of worship to meddle in partisan politics.
The poll, released in November by the Pew Research Center, found that 76 percent of Americans say houses of worship should not endorse or oppose candidates during elections. This figure is in line with other polls that show strong opposition to politicized churches.
The poll also found that most Americans reject the notion that houses of worship have too little influence over politics. Only 28 percent agree with that statement while 37 percent believe houses of worship have too much influence, and 34 percent say the amount of influence houses of worship have now is about right.
Results like this debunk one of President Donald Trump's claims about the intersection of religion and politics. Trump has argued that Americans are clamoring for religious leaders to have the power to hand down lists of political endorsements from the pulpit. In fact, this new Pew poll and others prove that this is the last thing most Americans want. (Some polls show that opposition to pulpit politicking is even higher among many religious leaders.)
A federal law known as the Johnson Amendment protects the integrity of houses of worship and other nonprofit groups by keeping them out of partisan politics. Under the law, tax-exempt nonprofit groups may not intervene in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. (The amendment is named for its sponsor, then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson.)
Trump has repeatedly attacked the Johnson Amendment and sought to undermine it. During the 2016 campaign, he told pastors he would overturn the amendment, and in May 2017 the president issued an executive order he insists did away with the provision. But the order did no such thing and was merely verbiage. The Johnson Amendment is a federal law, and it can't be wiped off the books by executive order.