Speaking on Monday at an event hosted by the Retired American Warriors PAC, Donald Trump fielded a question from a retired chaplain asking what he would do as president to halt the ongoing erosion of military members’ religious liberty. During his answer, Trump began to address the case of a Washington state high school football coach who was fired after leading pre-game prayers with his team, when — lo and behold — he discovered that the coach, Joe Kennedy, was also in attendance at the event.
After hearing the full story of Kennedy’s firing (which he called “outrageous”), Trump proceeded to remark on the importance of religious liberty and reiterated his plan to repeal the Johnson Amendment.
You can watch Trump’s full answer and read the transcript below:
…Religious liberty. Hey, it’s about religious liberty. And there has to be a melding of both. We’re living in a time where you have to have a melding of both. But it’s very unfair what they’re doing to religion in this country.
And, you know, one of the things that I’m doing, and we’re — we have the Johnson Amendment, you know what that is? Lyndon Johnson in the 1950s passed an amendment because, supposedly, he was having a hard time with a church in Houston, with a pastor. And he passed an amendment saying, basically, if you’re a pastor, if you’re a religious person, you cannot get up and talk politics. You cannot really — here’s a prime example of it. You know how strongly I feel about it. And I had 50 pastors, ministers — I had priests, I had a couple of rabbis in a big conference room in one of my buildings. And we’re talking, and I could see they really liked me. But I could also see they couldn’t endorse me. And I said, ‘well just out of curiosity, why?’ ‘Well we can’t do it because we’ll lose our tax-exempt status.’ I said, ‘Why is that?’ In other words, you’re taking away your freedom of speech. And they started telling me about the Johnson Amendment, which really was the first time. And I started studying it.
And we had a meeting a month later, and I said, ‘we’re going to get rid of the Johnson Amendment because they’re stopping you and our great people from talking.’ And Tony, and all the people — these are the people we have to hear from and we want to hear from them. And you don’t mind opposing views, but they’re stopping you from speaking. And actually your opposing views are able to speak, because they don’t have to worry about tax-exempt status and things.
So I think it’s very unfair. And one of the things I will do very early in my administration is to get rid of the Johnson Amendment so that our great pastors and ministers and rabbis and everybody — and priests and everybody — can go and tell, and participate in the process.
I actually looked at 50 people in the room — they’re strong people, powerful people by personality. And I said, ‘they’re really holding your voice back.’ So you have these powerful people — some were incredible speakers, just a natural gift for speaking — and I pointed down, way down on the street on 5th Avenue, and I said, ‘those people walking along the street have more power than you do.’
And I think that’s very unfair. You should be able to speak. And I think that will go a long way to addressing the problem you had. But you have lost a lot of — it’s amazing — the church and religion has lost tremendous power. And positive power — this isn’t negative power. This is positive power. By the fact that they are essentially prohibited from speaking because of the tremendous problem they have.
So one of the things I’m going to do, and I have tremendous support with the evangelicals and with the Christians and with everybody, is we’re going to get rid of the Johnson Amendment that is very, very unfair.
Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.