Trump and Johnson Amendment • W-2 Email Scam • Armed Church Security Guards: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Trump and Johnson Amendment • W-2 Email Scam • Armed Church Security Guards: News Roundup

Trump Claims He Will Repeal Johnson Amendment. “President Trump vowed on Thursday [February 2] to overturn a law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, a potentially huge victory for the religious right and a gesture to evangelicals, a voting bloc he attracted to his campaign by promising to free up their pulpits. Mr. Trump said his administration would ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. . . . Repealing the law would require approval by Congress, which could prove challenging given that Democrats, and even some Republicans, would resist what many view as an erosion of the separation between church and state. . . . Churches and clergy members are free to speak out on political and social issues—and many do—but the Johnson Amendment was intended to inhibit them from endorsing or opposing political candidates” (“Trump Vows to ‘Destroy’ Law Banning Political Endorsements by Churches,” The New York Times).

To learn more about the current limits on churches’ political activity, see our Politics and the Church resource—and check out this post from Managing Your Church to find out more about what a repeal of the Johnson Amendment would mean for your church.

W-2 Email Scam Prompts IRS Alert. “The IRS, state tax agencies, and the tax industry issued an urgent alert today to all employers that the Form W-2 email phishing scam has evolved beyond the corporate world and is spreading to other sectors, including school districts, tribal organizations, and nonprofits. In a related development, the W-2 scammers are coupling their efforts to steal employee W-2 information with an older scheme on wire transfers that is victimizing some organizations twice. . . . Here’s how the scam works: cybercriminals use various spoofing techniques to disguise an email to make it appear as if it is from an organization executive. The email is sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources departments, requesting a list of all employees and their Forms W-2. . . . In the latest twist, the cybercriminal follows up with an ‘executive’ email to the payroll or comptroller and asks that a wire transfer also be made to a certain account” (“IRS Issues Urgent Alert About W-2 Scam,” CPA Practice Advisor).

Church Law & Tax has various resources available to help churches protect themselves against scams, fraud, and more, including Preventing High-Tech Fraud and Best Practices for Technology Usage.

New Texas Bill Would Permit Armed Church Security Guards. “The Texas legislature is considering a law that would allow churches to hire security officers. Many Wichita Falls churches have security, but not everyone believes armed guards belong in church. ‘If you think you need to have a gun to go to church, or have someone there to guard you, it makes me wonder if we need to test the depth of our faith,’ Cheryl Murray, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church, said. . . . Jimmy Meeks, a former pastor who now gives seminars on church security, believes it’s an important issue. ‘What we really encourage the churches to do is to love your people,’ Meeks said. ‘Why not love them enough to protect them, just like you do for your own family when you’re at home at night and you lock the doors and close the windows?’ . . . The bill was just introduced [in January] and is in the early stages of debate” (“Guns in churches? Pastors debate church security,” News Channel 6).

Last month, our News Roundup reported on an Alabama bill that would authorize armed, legally protected security guards at churches. To learn more about the topic of churches and armed security guards, see our downloadable resource Confronting Gun Violence at Church.

New Jersey Church Suffers Donation Box Theft. “An East Rutherford man was arrested on Wednesday after he allegedly stole money from five donation boxes in a church, authorities said. Police from Lyndhurst arrived to St. Michael’s Church . . . on Tuesday, police said. The property manager told police between Monday and Tuesday that a thief, later identified as Michael Gardi, came, emptied five donation boxes throughout the church, and swiped an undetermined amount of cash. It was later determined through surveillance video that Gardi, 34, came in through the church vestibule just before 12 p.m. on Monday. . . . He then went to the second-level choir balcony and stayed there for more than three hours until he reappeared on video and got inside the locked entry doors from the vestibule into the church. He stayed for about 20 minutes and forced open the donation boxes” (“East Rutherford man accused of stealing church money,” NorthJersey.com).

Take the first steps toward preventing break-ins like this by downloading our Securing Church Property resource.

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This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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