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Johnson Amendment becomes issue in Missouri Senate race

A group of moderate Baptists has issued a statement supporting the Johnson Amendment. That injected controversy into the U.S. Senate race in Missouri, where Republican Atty. Gen. Josh Hawley is attempting to unseat incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Hawley was a member of the Hobby Lobby legal team that successfully challenged the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. In late August, Hawley told a gathering of ministers that he supports ending the rule, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. 

Added to the U.S. tax code in 1954, the Johnson Amendment bars tax-exempt charities from endorsing political candidates. It was discussed during a recent White House meeting between President Donald Trump and evangelical leaders. 

“The ‘Johnson Amendment’ protects houses of worship from candidates seeking endorsement during a political campaign,” said Brian Ford, executive director of Churchnet, a group of 150 churches. “As a life-long Baptist . . . I can’t imagine how damaging it would be to erase this legislation for local churches.”

Don Hinkle, spokesman for the much-larger Missouri Baptist Convention, said Churchnet is out of step with most of the state’s Baptists.

“Southern Baptists have always been staunch opponents (of the ban),” Hinkle told Baptist News Global. “It denies us our First Amendment rights.” 

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