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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Trump’s “Religious Freedom” Executive Order

The Daily Escape:

Cinco de Mayo parade in Puebla Mexico, where Mexico defeated France in 1862

Happy Cinco de Mayo! At the Mansion of Wrong, its ahi ceviche with mango, jalapeno, cilantro, ancho chili, lime juice and tequila in toasted won-ton wrappers. And Don Julio Anejo to wash it down. Not bad.

But among yesterday’s depressing news regarding the House passage of the Obamacare Repeal and (not) Replace, was the Orange Overlord signing yet another Executive Order (EO) touted by the Trump administration to protect “Religious Liberty”:

 

The EO directs the IRS not to enforce the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment is a part of the tax code that forbids 501(c)(3) organizations (including churches) from participating “directly or indirectly” in political campaigns.

Churches have historically been free to discuss and promote any issue or idea. So, they can address things like civil rights, reproductive rights, police violence, or the sanctity of law and order. They can also urge people to get out and vote on Election Day.

In other words, they can push and prod about all kinds of civic issues and engagement, in order to get their members to cast their votes.

The red line for the Johnson Amendment is actually endorsing a candidate. Churches can give a sermon about the evils of abortion, and let the attendees connect the dots to a candidate, but it’s a violation of the Johnson Amendment for the church to connect the dots directly, and tell the members to vote for a specific candidate or party.

Trump’s EO removes that red line. It will let churches give full endorsements so they can tell their congregants that God wants them to vote for Candidate X, and if they fail to do so, He will be angry and the baby Jesus will cry.

Trump’s EO leaves the decision whether to enforce the Johnson Amendment in the hands of the IRS. That means the IRS could pick and choose which institutions to penalize, and it might be your church, and not your neighbor’s.

In February, Trump promised to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment. But, presidents can’t “destroy” laws with EOs; that takes an act of Congress. Republicans may try repealing the Johnson amendment as part of their tax reform package.

Nancy LeTourneau thinks that:

The executive order the president will sign today isn’t really so much about “religious freedom,” as it is being framed by Trump and the religious right. This is actually designed to further erode one of the remaining restrictions on campaign finance.

LeTourneau points to the “indirect” efforts by Franklin Graham to elect Trump last fall, and offers him as an example: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

To the extent that the IRS ignores this statute, Graham will be able to accept tax-free donations to Samaritan’s Purse [Franklin Graham is president] (or another non-profit he might set up) that will go towards endorsing and advocating for the political candidates of their choice. That will likely make Franklin Graham a major player on par with the Super PACs in American politics.

LeTourneau thinks the EO has little to do with “Religious Freedom”, but instead opens a path for professional evangelists like Franklin Graham to become king-makers in our politics.

This turns “no taxation without representation” into “representation without taxation”, a Republican wet dream that could undermine whatever remains of our campaign finance regulations. Where is the lack of religious freedom here? Churches don’t have to apply for tax-exempt status, and they could then say (or do) anything they want.

They just would have to pay taxes like everyone else.

OK, here’s some music for Cinco: Here is “Oye Como Va” by Santana. It was written by Tito Puente in 1963, and popularized by Santana in 1970 on his album Abraxas:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sean Spicer Searches Staff

The Daily Escape:

(Baby Baboon – Kenya)

Trump press secretary Sean Spicer is trying to catch the sources of White House leaks. (Link below sourced by the Wrongologist)

Spicer called his White House staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the continuing leaks of WH information, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, is a violation of the Federal Records Act.

NOW they care about the law? Using a Republican National Committee email server for official business is illegal, but that hasn’t stopped the White House from using it. Does Spicer have any concerns about the unsecured Android smartphone his boss tweets from every day? More:

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

Spicer then specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media.

But someone in the room leaked all of it. They leaked that the leaky White House is trying to stop the leaks, (except for WikiLeaks) which, of course they love. Maybe someone should take a look at The Donald, who is currently taking a leak on the First Amendment.

Perhaps the gang who can’t shoot straight should have realized that people could delete incriminating information, or communicate with reporters in some way that might not be on their phones at all. Wrongo reveres the TV series “The Wire”. Apparently, Mr. Spicer has never watched it, and hasn’t heard of “burner” phones.

And it’s got to be difficult trying to maintain your loyalty to a team when the boss distrusts the team members. Unless there is a national security issue, there can’t be a reason to allow a government official to “inspect” your private mobile phone.

Many fun nicknames have been suggested for Sean Spicer (Cranky Spice, Whiny Spice). Wrongo’s current favorite is “Searchy Spice”, although his nickname in college was “Sean Sphincter” suggesting that he is in the right job: Hanging out with one of the world’s biggest assholes.

Thank you to the brave Americans inside the belly of the beast who put their country first. LEAK ON!

Next week in Spicer’s office: colonoscopies.

Here is a video about office investigations from the ever-popular TV series, “Office” (BBC version):

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

And enjoy (not) watching the Overlord’s address to the joint session of Congress tonight.

After all, you can read both fake news and alternative facts about it everywhere tomorrow.

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