The Exchange May 10, 2017

May 11, 2017

The Exchange May 10, 2017--A discussion about President Donald Trump's executive order that eases some of the pressure on churches when it comes to discussing political candidates. Also, a new novel about an Iowa farm family during the Depression and Ally Karsyn talks with Siouxland Public Media's Artist of the Month, Ghost Cat

The Exchange 051017

Coming up on The Exchange, we take a look at the meaning and possible effects of the executive order signed by President Trump last week that calls for a weakening of a law that bars churches and tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates.  The law is called the Johnson Amendment. 

Trump announcement

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“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 . . . . “

But did he do that? And what does the move mean for churches, freedom of speech and the role of religion in politics?

We will have a roundtable discussion with a local attorney who can address the details of the amendment, a pastor and a minister who is also a history professor at Morningside College.  That’s coming up after this news. 

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National News

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Local news and Weather

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You’re listening to The Exchange on Siouxland Public Media, I’m Mary Hartnett.  Today we will take a look at President Donald Trump’s executive order to that essentially weakens the Johnson Amendment. It bars churches and other tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates.  That amendment was created by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1954, but it was not directed at houses of worship.  Instead, it was aimed at some non-profit groups that labeled him a communist in a Texas Senate campaign.  Basically, organizations, including churches, risked losing their tax-free status if they crossed the line politically by speaking out about a particular candidate.   Last week, President Donald Trump spoke a group of religious leaders and the nation in the White House Rose Garden about the order that asks the executive branch to honor and enforce existing protections for religious liberty. 

80737Trump2

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In: “it was Thomas Jefferson who said . . .”

Out: “. . . right over here” . . . (applause).

But the President really didn’t get rid of the Johnson Amendment. He would need Congress to help him do that. So what does this mean in terms of freedom of speech and religion?  Does it give religious groups special treatment or give them the freedom they have always deserved?  How does America view freedom of religion and political expression?  Today we have a group of panelists to

Angie J. Schneiderman, an attorney with Moore, Heffernan, Moeller, Johnson and Meis in Sioux City.  She has a law degree from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 

Bruce Forbes is an ordained United Methodist minister and a Professor of History at Morningside College.

Ryan Dowell Baum is the pastor the First Congregational Church of Sioux City.

Angie, I will start with you because I wanted to ask about the legal ramifications of this executive order.  What sort of power does it have?

How could the president do more, do away with the Johnson Amendment?

Is this a reasonable approach to this issue?

Ryan, what was your reaction to this move by the president?

How does it affect what you do in your church?

Do you ever feel the need to talk about one candidate or another?  Do you approve of it?  How do you deal with politics?

Bruce, you teach a class or two that looks at the odd marriage of politics and religion.  How does this move by President Trump speak to how we as Americans think about the role of religion in politics and vice versa?

What kind of freedom of expression do we expect in our churches?

Angie J. Schneiderman, an attorney with Moore, Heffernan, Moeller, Johnson and Meis in Sioux City.  She has a law degree from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 

Bruce Forbes is an ordained United Methodist minister and a Professor of History at Morningside College.

Ryan Dowell Baum is the pastor the First Congregational Church of Sioux City.

There was something called Pulpit Freedom Sunday in early October, when preachers who’ve signed up to trespass into electoral politics go well beyond the limits their churches have agreed upon when accepting tax-exempt status. Organized by the conservative movement Alliance Defending Freedom, they praise or condemn candidates.   Angie Schniederman, is this actionable?

Ryan, if it is actionable, if a church can lose their tax-exempt status, why do some churches risk it?

A member of the Liberty Counsel, an evangelical group praised Trump’s order, but really felt that it didn’t go far enough.  Bruce is this a typical feeling in the evangelical community?

When we look back at the colonial and early American eras of the United States, ministers of all kinds preached often about politics and revolution.  The church was a major place where political will was formed and raised.  How far have we come from that era?  Is it still there underneath it all? 

Since the Johnson Amendment was a response to charges of Communism, do we tend to see it as a suppressive law?  Bruce?  Angie?  

Angie J. Schneiderman, an attorney with Moore, Heffernan, Moeller, Johnson and Meis in Sioux City.  She has a law degree from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 

Bruce Forbes is an ordained United Methodist minister and a Professor of History at Morningside College.

Ryan Dowell Baum is the pastor the First Congregational Church of Sioux City.

The other part of President Trump’s order had to do with asking federal agencies to take it easy on religious groups in terms of enforcement.   It also provides "regulatory relief" for organizations that object on religious grounds to a provision in Obamacare that mandates employers provide certain health services, including coverage for contraception.  Angie, do you think that this part of the order could be the source of some lawsuits?

The ACLU has said that since the order has little “teeth” in terms of enforcement, it won’t be filing a lawsuit, even though the org had been considering it.  Do  you think they are being prudent, you know, waiting for the next shoe to drop?

Evangelical Christian leader Russell Moore said the order is "more symbolic than substantive."  Is there a level of disappointment out there among some religious groups?

Bruce, Ryan, do you agree?

In colonial times, church and state were much more closely tied.  Bruce, didn’t colonial pastors often tell parishioners from the pulpit what to do politically?  About the Revolution?  When did that kind of atmosphere change?

How far can a minister go in terms of political talk without alienating his congregation or his community?

The Catholic Church usually recommends that people follow their conscience, and that conscience should be in line with the teaching of the church. Is this a good model to follow?

Angie, do you think there will be more orders or an effort to get rid of the Johnson Amendment by the Congress?

Angie J. Schneiderman   attorney with Moore, Heffernan, Moeller, Johnson and Meis in Sioux City.  She has a law degree from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 

Bruce Forbes is an ordained United Methodist minister and a Professor of History at Morningside College.

Ryan Dowell Baum is the pastor the First Congregational Church of Sioux City.

You’re listening to the Exchange on Siouxland Public Media.  I’m Mary Hartnett.  Stuart Harris is an author and playwright who grew up in California but he has an Iowa heritage.  His latest novel, “The Northeast Quarter,” is set in Winfield, Iowa in 1918. Colonel Wallace Carson asks his ten-year-old granddaughter and eventual heir to his agricultural empire, to promise she will safeguard The Northeast Quarter, the choice piece of land from which the empire was founded. Ann readily accepts -- little knowing what awaits her. Harris says the inspiration for the book came from a conversation he had with his mother not long before she died.

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“ . . . had liked it.”

That was Stuart Harris talking about his book, “The Northeast Quarter.”  The novel is set in Iowa and tells the story of a farm family from just after the first world war to the Depression. 

That’s it for this week’s edition of The Exchange.  Next week, we will take a look at alternative energy sources and how they are being utilized in Siouxland and beyond.  We will talk about wind power, solar power and more.  That’s next Wednesday at noon on The Exchange, on Siouxland Public Media.

Thanks today to my guests, attorney Angie Schniederman, pastor Ryan Dowell Baum of the First Congregational Church of Sioux City and Bruce Forbes, an ordained Methodist minister and professor of history at Morningside College. I’m Mary Hartnett.  Thanks for listening.  See you next week.