GOP Tax Bill • Sutherland Springs Lawsuit • Establishment Clause: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
GOP Tax Bill • Sutherland Springs Lawsuit • Establishment Clause: News Roundup
Image: Brandon Mowinkel / Unsplash

GOP Tax Bill Will Not Include Johnson Amendment Repeal. “In a minor win for Democrats, the final GOP tax bill will not include a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a change that would have allowed religious institutions and all nonprofit entities organized as 501(c)3s to endorse political candidates. President Trump had strongly advocated the repeal. Trump promised to ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment at the National Prayer Breakfast in February. Getting rid of it has been a priority of some spiritual leaders, especially in evangelical circles that have typically leaned Republican. The tax bill that passed the House in November scrapped the Johnson Amendment entirely for all non-profits, but the Senate bill did not, setting up a difference that had to be ironed out in this final week of negotiations” (“In small win for Democrats, the final tax bill will not include a provision allowing churches to endorse political candidates,” The Washington Post).

For more on what churches can (and can’t) do when it comes to political activity, check out this downloadable resource.

Family of Sutherland Springs Victims Sues Rifle Retailer. “A Sutherland Springs family is suing the retailer that sold church shooter Devin Kelley the assault rifle that killed three of their family members. The Webster Law Firm confirmed the Ward family is suing Academy Sports and Outdoors for its 'negligent failure to follow existing gun control laws.' . . . In April 2016, the suspect was able to purchase a Ruger AR-556 at a San Antonio Sporting Goods that was used to kill 26 people inside of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017. The lawsuit details that Kelley reportedly used a Colorado address to purchase the gun. This should have disqualified him from transporting the gun to his Texas residence” (“Lawsuit: Church shooter used Colorado address to buy rifle in San Antonio,” KENS 5).

Learn about securing your church and assessing your current security efforts with this downloadable resource.

Establishment Clause Violations Alleged in School Lawsuit. “In Louisiana yesterday [December 18], the mother of a high school student filed suit against a local school board alleging extensive Establishment Clause violations. The complaint (full text) in Cole v. Webster Parish School Board . . . alleges in part: '2 . . . [T]he Webster Parish School District has a longstanding custom, policy, and practice of promoting and inculcating Christian religious beliefs by sponsoring religious activities and conveying religious messages to students, including by broadcasting prayers daily over school speakers. 3. So engrained is official promotion of religion at Webster Parish schools that virtually all school events—such as sports games, pep rallies, assemblies, and graduation ceremonies—include school-sponsored Christian prayer, religious messages and/or proselytizing. Graduation ceremonies are frequently held in houses of worship, and at times they resemble religious rituals that include Bible verses and Christian prayers'” (“Suit Charges Louisiana School Promotes Christian Beliefs and Broadcasts Daily Prayer,” Religion Clause).

Read more about the Establishment Clause (and how it affects your church) in our Legal Library.

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Emily Lund is assistant editor for Church Law & Tax.

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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