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tv   Washington Journal Matthew Bulger Discusses the Johnson Amendment  CSPAN  February 21, 2017 9:20am-9:36am EST

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what they are doing right now, donald trump wants to have a judge like scalia, if you keep on doing what you're doing, you are going to see a lot of stuff in the streets that's going to happen. america can't take back. have a good day. host: jacksonville beach, florida. tammy on our republican line. caller: yes. good morning. what i actually wanted to respond to was i had the paragraph memorized but i held for a while so i'll paraphrase. you read something about the college, the governor that passed the law about college -- host: out of virginia. the legislature there that passed -- caller: right. as you were reading it, i'm reading with you and see the highlighted areas. then you skipped over a paragraph that wasn't highlighted. this is one of the points here. it said something to the effect of i have seen all over the
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country where colleges are limiting people that can speak because of their political views. that paragraph right there wasn't highlighted. and you did not read it. i just want to know who edits this stuff and why that happened? host: it's just to speed up the -- to get the gist of the story i'm reading. i clearly can't read every single word that's printed. but there it is, you cited it. wtop website. you're right. that's what it says. the missing text was we have examples of colleges and universities that have been unilaterally making decisions what's appropriate political speech on campus. there it is. it wasn't intentional. more just speed along the gist of the story. karen from somerset, new jersey, independent line. hi. caller: hi. how you doing today? long time listener. i think c-span is the only unbiased news source on tv right now. my point is that the beauty of
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freedom of speech is that you bring all manner of ideas and opinions into the public square for discourse. if you limit certain kinds of speech, especially the more radical ones, they tend to go under ground. that's what forms these movements. people feel they don't have a voice in the public square, they'll come up somewhere later in an organization say like maybe -- i know this isn't how the ku klux klan got started, but in an organization like that. then you really have an issue. the problem with not having people in our educational system able to listen to or tolerate opposing views, no matter how repugnant, is dangerous. because if you take one person's right to that particular opinion and you take it away, i think someone had alluded to this before, then the next people who
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come along in power will take away what they consider and that person who started this movement will lose their right. so it's a slippery slope into losing the right to our freedom of speech. also our freedom to assembly. the things that happened at the trump rallies where people were not allowed to freely attend. they tried to stop the assembly of those people. prohibit them from going into arenas. roadblocks. this is all not really peaceful. it's very intimidating and it's very confrontational. not that speech shouldn't be confrontational, but there are people on that road who weren't trump supporters, when the road was blocked. they weren't trump supporters. they might be people going to the doctor, job, maybe they are in the danger of losing their job. and there's consequences for your speech. like someone else said. but to limit it is just really a
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slippery slope into losing that right all together in my opinion. host: karen from new jersey calling in on if there are limits to free speech. take a look at other aspects of free speech when it comes to churches and religious organization. it deals specifically with something called the johnson amendment. "the new york times" has a brief explanation starting with the president trump told an audience of religious leader he would destroy the johnson amendment. he declared his intention that would sign the built that would fundamentally alter the aspect of church dried divide that's been a constant in american politics for generations. the president said this, during a recent player -- prayer event. let's listen what he said in context when it comes to the johnson amendment. president trump: our republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government but that freedom is a gift from god. [applause]
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president trump: it was the great thomas jefferson who said that god who gave us life gave us liberty. jefferson asked, account liberties of a nation be secure -- can the liberties of a racial nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of god? among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. that is why i will get rid of and totally destroy the johnson amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. i will do that. remember. host: that was president trump. the piece from jeremy peters in "the new york times" explains a little bit about the johnson amendment saying under the provision made in 1954 tax exempt entities like churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly
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participate in any political campaign on the behalf of or in opposition to any candidate, specifically ministers are restricted from endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. if they do they risk losing their tax exempt stay tiss. here joining giving us a perfect spectjiff on the johnson amendment. matt bulger, serves as the legislative director. good morning. could you talk a little bit about your organization and the perspective you bring when it comes to this idea of the johnson amendment? guest: certainly. we do approach the issue from a different perspective than the president. we see any repeal of the johnson amendment as a massive threat to america's elections, the separation of church and state, and the integrity of many of these houses of worship and charities who do great work but who would find their mission becomes increasingly politicized through repeal of the amendment. host: the threat is specifically what, then? guest: ok. in several aspects we're
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concerned about repeal of the law specifically if amendment is repealed houses of worship will become the most attractive vehicle for political contributions across the country. in a pretty unique way. currently, houses of worship, as you just noted, are prohibited from participating in campaign politics. however, if the amendment is repealed, houses of worship would be able to solicit donations for political candidates from their parishioners, and parishioners who do give to churches for eventually political donations to candidates would be able to do so on a tax deductible basis, which no other form of political giving is able to do that. whether giving to a p.a.c., candidate directly. you always have to pay taxes on that. and -- so by removing the amendment allowing for individual donors to give tax deductible contribution, you would be making churches by far the most productive way to give money to political candidates. in addition, many houses of worship are not required to disclose their donors.
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so donors who do give to houses of worship would be completely anonymous which would be massive transparency problems. in addition to all this, houses of worship are unique in that unlike other forms of 501-c-3 organizations which have to fill out a form 990 which gives the i.r.s. information as to what they are spending their money on making sure they are staying within their charitable purpose, houses of worship are not required to fill out this form so they are not required to tell the i.r.s. how they are spending their money. they are not required to tell anyone how they are getting their money in the first place. and they are also going to be able to provide a tax deduction for those donors who do give to them. host: other people on the other, pastors, saying if they tried sfeek out on these issues or be more aggressive, because of the threat of i.r.s. their speech is chilled in the sense. what do you think about that argument? guest: i think that's just false. first off, pastors, leaders of various religious communities, are able to already participate
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in the political sphere through lobbying on specific issues. they are also of course able to give up their 501-c-3 tax status so they can participate more fully in the political process. but on the same grounds that other political organizations do participate in. i think it's also worth noting the ma majority of parishioners do not want the amendment to be repealed, for the religious eaders to participate in campaign politics. there was a survey recently released by life way research, an evangelical christian organization, which shows eight in 10 people shows it was inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church. and that's higher when you look at the clergy members. nine in 10 said they were opposed to it. this is something that the churches do not want. that organizations who are concerned about campaign finance and the separation of church and state do not want. it really seems to be something that only religious right leaders in d.c. who are looking to shore up more power and
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influence for themselves are interested in repealing. host: the president mentioned his desire to see it go. what's the interest of congress, in your opinion, of repealing this amendment? guest: currently there have been two pieces of legislation which have been introduced. h.r. 172 introduced by representative walter jones, would completely repeal the johnson amendment. and he's been reintroducing this bill for the last 15 years. i believe in 2002 the house voted down this bill with 46 republicans voting against it. then there's also the free speech fairness act introduced by senator lankford and representative scalise on the house side which is a much more narrow takedown of the johnson amendment though still very concerning as opposed to completely repealing the amendment. it would allow tax exempt organizations, which includes both houses of worship and secular nonprofits, to make statements endorsing candidates for public office so long as those statements are made in the ordinary course of their
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chatible purpose. host: is your association actively on capitol hill trying to keep this from happening? who are you getting attention from or who is listening? guest: certainly. we recently organized congressional hearings in both the house and senate which received bipartisan attendance. we have also been working with religious allies as well as sec uelar in arranging meetings with members of congress. as well as specific committees which focus on these issues. and we'll continue to advocate against repeal of the amendment in a broad interfaith manner. host: that's matt bulger of the american humanist association, legislative director, talking about this idea of the johnson amendment and potential repeal of it. thank you for your time. guest: thank you. host: we'll get another perspective in just a few minutes. but back to your calls on limits of free speech. robert, new jersey, independent line. good morning. you're next. caller: hello, thanks for having me on.
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an expert on the topic of free speech. i was one of the coordinatesors for occupying wall street. media collection and distribution. i also worked as a segment producer in washington, d.c., for a radio and investigative journalist. this is a big issue. we're going into very strange times with donald trump. we had difficulties with the obama administration. some of your people calling in mentioned there are consequences. there are lots of different consequences. one of the things very closely related to limits of free speech speech.cy of free those are limits that are
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encroaching on free speech. lot of talk about the n.s.a. tracking people's internet traffic. you have police with ma sheens called the stingray tracking cell phone use of activists. serious a very, very topic. lots of different examples of the limits. the consequences. there was a gallup poll, september, 2016, mainstream media. this is a very real consequence. the approval rating for mainstream media was 31%. that's a consequence. when you look at edward snowden, chelsea manning, those are
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limits to free speech. host: to robert, different robert, this one is in texas. democrats line. caller: i love the mainstream media because it helps raise the conscious of americans. hat's why i like them. americans finally see the money they put into campaigns, they are mad about because their person didn't win. my person didn't win. but you can't get upset because you put money into it. and tell the people, america, what you feel. they are worried about their money but they are not worried about our money. and same thing with the movie stars and all that. that put money in. host: when it comes to the topic of free speech and if there is limits, what do you think? caller: well, i think that we shouldn't have any limits. that's what's good about it because it raises the conscience of americans.
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of what's really happening. host: we'll hear from judy next. in crownsville, maryland. independent line. good morning, judy. caller: good morning. i really appreciate your having the caller, speaker about the johnson amendment. it's really, really important matter. i had planned to talk about the stingrays that another prior caller mentioned. most people don't understand if you attend any kind of public event, there is a device called a stingray which is the brand name for what they technically call a cell site simulator which means it pretends it's a cell phone tower and your cell phone is sending out signals saying do i have any calls, i'm here. and then the cell tower bounces back, no calls. with this device they can get all of your metta data. they can also get your phone information.

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