Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday February 4, 2017
The Johnson Amendment, Which Trump Vows to ‘Destroy,’ Explained
When President Trump told an audience of religious leaders on Thursday that he would ‘destroy’ the Johnson Amendment, he declared his intention to sign a bill that would fundamentally alter a major aspect of the church-state divide that has been a constant in American politics for generations.
But what exactly is the Johnson Amendment?
It is one of the brightest lines in the legal separation between religion and politics. Under the provision, which was made in 1954, tax-exempt entities like churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in any political campaign on 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 status.
Considered uncontroversial at the time, it was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican. Today, however, many Republicans want to repeal it.
Back when Lyndon B. Johnson was a senator from Texas, he introduced the measure as an amendment to the tax code in 1954. Like many things Johnson did, the goal was to bludgeon a political opponent, in this case a rival in a primary who had the backing of nonprofit groups that were campaigning against him by suggesting he was a communist. Though there was no church involved, according to PolitiFact, churches were covered by the bill as well.
Mr. Trump promised he would work to repeal the Johnson Amendment as part of his extensive outreach efforts to religious conservatives, a group that took a long time to warm to his candidacy. Eliminating the measure has been a goal of the right. Conservatives have argued that it violates the protections of free speech and free exercise that the First Amendment extends to houses of worship. Courts have not agreed.
Speaking of the implications of a repeal last year, Jerry Falwell Jr., the prominent evangelical leader and Trump supporter, said it would “create a huge revolution for conservative Christians and for free speech.” (Source: New York Times)
(Colourized and adapted from an earlier version)
Conservative government orders studies into homegrown terrorism
A day after committing six fighter jets and hundreds of personnel to the fight against the Islamic State, the federal Conservatives are commissioning five new studies into homegrown terrorism and terrorist financing.
Public Safety Canada issued a call for five new research projects into a variety of terrorism-related topics Wednesday, including the domestic impact of international conflict and the role of the internet in terrorist recruiting.
“These cases are rare, but the impact of an act of terrorism is potentially enormous, with serious and lasting psychological and emotional harm to a large number of individuals, as well as economic impact and/or the creation or escalation of tensions between communities and countries.”
The research will consider a number of questions:
- How does the “psychology of the internet” play into terrorist activities and recruitment?
- What are the domestic impacts of international conflicts, such as the war in Iraq?
- What are the gender dynamics involved in radicalization to violence?
- How are resources transferred to terrorist organizations? How are those resources moved and used?
- What makes people susceptible to recruitment into violent extremism?
Despite the government’s mockery of political opponents for searching for the “root causes” of terrorism or “engaging in sociology,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has committed around $5 million to similar research over the last three years. (Source: Toronto Star)
What’s fair play in an election campaign?
The efforts of purported online hackers to “expose” a Ward 3 candidate as a Freemason just jumped to the top of a list of questionable campaign tactics in Hamilton.
It’s getting to be a long list.
Alleged mass destruction of Marie Robbins signs in Stoney Creek. An anonymous letter disputing how long Sandy Shaw has lived in Ward 1. A suspected “whisper campaign” about the health of mayoral candidate Brad Clark.
Clark, in turn, was accused of mudslinging after claiming candidate Fred Eisenberger misled the public by withholding rapid transit memos when he was last mayor. Clark then faced criticism when it was revealed he got the memos from outgoing Mayor Bob Bratina, not via a Freedom of Information request, as suggested by his campaign.
The difference between hardball tactics and dirty politics is often in the eye of the beholder, said political pundit Gerry Nicholls, known for creative attack ads during his time with the conservative National Citizens Coalition.
“Attack ads, brawling tactics … it’s kind of par for the course in elections,” said Nicholls, who fondly recalls skewering federal politicians using “farm animals and billboards.”
“Politics really is a blood sport. If you’re not ready for the rough stuff, maybe you’re not ready to run for office.”
Still, Nicholls said every candidate has to respect basic rules, such as libel law. “You don’t call someone a liar … You may hint at it, you may imply it,” he said. Also, do your research. A factually incorrect attack ad “can really come back and bite you.”
Clark rejects the characterization of his campaign as negative. He argued Thursday the vast majority of his announcements have been positive and added it’s fair to criticize the track record of opponents.
“There’s a difference between comparing performance and quite literally name calling,” said Clark in response to a Spectator question at a news conference on improving council relations.
The Stoney Creek councillor has indeed endured some notable barbs from mayoral competitors like Brian McHattie, who has called him “Machiavellian.”
Clark also recently held a news conference to address what he felt was a “whisper campaign” about his rheumatoid arthritis, which he said is in remission and has never interfered with his duties as councillor.
Shaw was irritated to learn about the anonymous pokes at her residency. The rookie candidate said she briefly lived outside the ward for family reasons but is back and has had a home in Ward 1 for 32 years. She describing the letter in field hockey terms: “like a crack at your ankles on a breakaway.”
Ward 3 candidate Matthew Green is the latest victim — or, possibly, beneficiary — of a political attack. A YouTube video ostensibly posted by the online collective of hackers Anonymous warns viewers the rookie candidate is a Freemason who moved his business to Ward 3 to “control” the neighbourhood.
Some online comments noted the video does a good job reminding viewers of Green’s activism and media plaudits for being a “young professional to watch.”
Green said he appreciates the shoutout, if not the “poor production values” and “tinfoil hat stuff.” He declined to say who he thinks is behind the video — but added it isn’t him.
“I don’t know, this election seems to have really brought out the kookiness in some people,” said the candidate, who described himself being “two-for-two” in unwanted election news after being accused of defamation following a heated exchange with a school board trustee.
“Maybe you haven’t arrived until someone makes an Anonymous video about you?” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Stephen Harper more open with Americans, UN than with Parliament
Stephen Harper made an important announcement Wednesday about Canada’s willingness to do more in the battle to stop Islamic State fighters in Iraq.
You might have missed it, though, because the prime minister let it slip during a question and answer session before a business audience in New York City.
“The United States just recently, in the past couple of days, has asked for some additional contribution,” Harper said, before deflecting questions about what kind of support was being sought.
“Since they didn’t release the letter publicly I’m not going to do that,” he went on. “I’ll just say the government of Canada will make a decision on that very shortly.”
Canadian government sources indicated later that the request is “not for combat” troops. So as information goes, it’s a shred.
But it’s more detail than what the Conservatives have shared in the Commons, where opposition parties can barely get the government to divulge anything about the role Canadian Forces personnel already are playing in northern Iraq, or even how long those soldiers might stay.
Harper also didn’t mention the U.S. request at a news conference on Monday, when a reporter asked what concrete action Canada would take in response to new threats from ISIS to target Canadians.
Now, this isn’t the first time Harper chose to announce significant government policy overseas. Canadians first learned of the plans to make them wait longer to collect Old Age Security from a speech the PM gave in Davos, Switzerland in 2012.
When it comes to an audience, Harper obviously prefers barons of business to members of Parliament. (Continued: CBC News)
— mackaycartoons (@mackaycartoons) September 26, 2014