Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trump Delivering on Promises is Double Edged Sword

Trump is delivering on or at least signing documents that appear to deliver on many of his campaign promises. He made promises to the evangelical Christians and ultra-conservatives which he’s delivering on with his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to be a justice on the Supreme Court. Not only is Gorsuch a man in the mold of Antonin Scalia which Trump promised his nominee would be, he’s also the mind behind the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision with gave corporations the right to be exempt from laws that offend their shareholders. Frankly I’ll believe that a corporation has religious rights when I meet one in church.

One of the defining reasons to incorporate your business is to protect yourself from legal responsibility for actions and liabilities of the business. If you incorporate your business you have created a legal entity with the rights and responsibilities to engage in business and if the entity is sued the owners are not a party to the lawsuit in most cases. Gorsuch’s decision bridges the gap between the owner and the corporation enabling the owner to claim that the business shares their religious convictions and therefore should be exempt from providing insurance coverage the provides contraception. In my view bridging that gap pierces the “corporate veil” which protects shareholders and may one day come back to haunt businesses due to the loss of protection offered by it.

Trump also recently announced that his administration would “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from engaging in political activity at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. Such a repeal of the law would require approval by Congress. Currently certain tax-exempt organizations — in this case, churches — are not allowed to openly endorse or campaign for political candidates. If they do, under existing law, they risk losing the benefits of their tax-exempt status. Should Trump get his way he’ll be able to honestly say he’s delivered on another campaign promise to evangelicals who have chafed under this restriction for quite some time. There are even organizations of lawyers who among other issues have repeatedly attempted to get this restriction overturned so his success would be met with great joy in some circles. I have to wonder though if it isn’t a double edged sword in the sense that it will also embolden and empower churches which take opposing views on many issues dear to the hearts of the evangelicals Trump seeks to reward for their support during the election. How will they feel when an Imam at a nearby mosque calls for followers to vote for a candidate opposed by their church?

Nominating Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education is an indirect reward to the evangelicals who supported Trump in that she’s a strong supporter of school vouchers which she and others want to allow parents to use in order to fund their child’s tuition to private religious schools. This is a very contentious issue since having the government directly fund religious education seems to violate the First Amendment by favoring religion with our tax dollars. I know a lot of very religious folks feel strongly in favor of this because it would either save them a lot of money they’re currently spending or would enable them to send their children to such a school. I have to wonder if even more voters won’t be up in arms when they learn that those funds must also be provided to members of other faiths and they see a news story about a taxpayer funded madrassa right here in the United States just like in Afghanistan.

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