Evangelicals Write to Trump • Transgender Bathroom Case • Pot Shops and Churches: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Evangelicals Write to Trump • Transgender Bathroom Case • Pot Shops and Churches: News Roundup

Evangelical Leaders’ Letter to Trump. “In a highly unusual move, several conservative evangelical leaders took out a full-page advertisement in Wednesday’s Washington Post to denounce President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees, saying they are ‘deeply concerned.’ The ad includes the signatures of evangelicals considered to be more conservative and represent large churches and institutions, including New York City pastor Tim Keller and his wife, Kathy Keller, Southern Baptists Ed Stetzer and Daniel Akin, and popular author Max Lucado. The ad shows how the issue of refugees, which was once not considered divisive in evangelical circles, has become polarizing in recent years. The evangelical ministry World Relief, which is behind the ad that lists 100 evangelical leaders, said that more than 500 evangelical pastors and ministry leaders have added their signatures to the letter that will be delivered to Trump” (“Conservative evangelicals join letter denouncing Trump’s order on refugees,” The Washington Post).

How did these pastors stay within the limits of the tax code when they engaged in politics? To learn more about the current restrictions on church leaders’ political activity, see our Politics and the Church resource.

New Developments in Transgender Bathroom Access Case. “Last year, a Texas federal district court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction barring the federal government from enforcing guidelines interpreting Title IX as barring discrimination by schools on the basis of gender identity. In particular, the guidelines took the position that transgender students must have access to restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Subsequently the Obama administration asked the court for a partial stay that would limit the injunction, pending appeal, to the 13 states that were plaintiffs in the case. As reported by AP, a hearing on that motion was to have been held February 14. However, on Friday, the Justice Department withdrew the government's request for a partial stay, and indicated it was ‘currently considering how best to proceed in this appeal’” (“Trump Justice Department Withdraws Objections to Nationwide Injunction in Transgender Bathroom Case,” Religion Clause).

Attorney Richard Hammar discusses the topic of transgender bathroom access in this article featured in the January/February issue of Church Law & Tax Report.

Realities of Trump Repealing the Johnson Amendment. “Trump’s bid to end a ban on partisan politics by tax-exempt churches? It faces an uphill climb in the Senate, where the GOP majority needs help from at least eight Democrats to clear procedural roadblocks. That’s a big reach, even if Republicans focus on Democrats who are running for another term in 2018 in states that Trump won last year. Trump vowed to ‘totally destroy’ the ban, which allows the IRS to drop the tax-exempt status of churches that engage in politics. Backers of Trump’s proposal say the prohibition unfairly censors churches. Removing the restriction would give churches and pastors significant political clout. Foes say keeping it in place will help ensure separation of church and state” (The Kiplinger Letter, Feb. 10, 2017, Vol. 94, No. 6).

To learn more about what a repeal of the Johnson Amendment would mean for your church, read this post from Managing Your Church.

Washington State Pastor Argues Against Pot Shops Near Churches. “University Place residents told city officials this week that if they can’t keep their ban on marijuana sales, they should at least prevent cannabis retailers from locating near churches. The University Place planning commission is considering draft rules that would limit where pot retailers, producers and processors can locate within the city of 31,000. . . . Proposed regulations would allow marijuana retailers in mixed-use zones within the city, provided those shops are at least 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, daycare centers, gaming arcades, public parks, transit centers, recreation centers, and libraries. . . . Stacy McClain, lead pastor of the University Place First Baptist Church, told the commission Wednesday night that list should be expanded to include churches. McClain said churches are often gathering places for youths attending religious instructions or participating in youth activities. The pastor said the same logic that applies to keeping marijuana shops distant from schools, playgrounds, and recreation centers—that they are frequented by children—should apply to churches” (“UP residents don’t want pot shops, especially near churches,” The News Tribune).

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