What the election means for state/church separation: By Hemant Mehta

By Hemant Mehta

As we begin to look forward from the election, here are some issues church/state separation advocates are going to have to deal with in the years to come.

Will Donald Trump repeal the Johnson Amendment?

As it stands, churches (and other nonprofits) do not have to pay taxes. But that also means they can’t endorse candidates from the pulpit. Trump has pledged to repeal the law that says that — the Johnson Amendment — and that idea made its way into the GOP’s 2016 platform.

If he successfully repeals it, evangelical churches around the country will essentially become arms of that political party. Church and state will be intertwined in a way we’ve never seen before.

Will Trump use taxpayer money to fund private religious schools?

One of Trump’s few specific policy proposals included spending $20 billion to allow students to attend the schools of their choice, presumably including private religious schools. Besides hurting public schools all over the country, these taxpayer-funded vouchers would go to some schools that put indoctrination over education.

Americans United for Separation for Church and State suggested that the religious liberty aspect of this plan was a looming disaster: “One of the most dearly held principles of religious liberty is that government should not compel any citizen to furnish funds in support of a religion with which he or she disagrees, or even a religion with which he or she does agree. Voucher programs, however, violate that central tenet: They use taxpayer money to fund primarily religious education. Indeed, approximately 80 percent of the students participating in the D.C. voucher program attend religious schools. Parents certainly may choose such an education for their children, but no taxpayer should be required to pay for another’s religious education.”

Will Trump discriminate on the basis of religion?

Trump has already proposed a ban on Muslim immigrants — or even visitors — though he hasn’t explained how he’d know they’re followers of Islam. Not all Muslims look the same, and not all people from certain countries are Muslim.

More broadly, though, this idea that people should be treated differently by the government on the basis of their faith goes against everything our nation is supposed to stand for.

If Trump and his party promote discrimination against religious minorities, who will stand up for them?

How much influence will Vice President-elect Mike Pence have on this administration?

Pence believes people can be “cured” of their homosexuality. He thinks it’s okay for Christian business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers. He supported a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He signed a bill to jail gay couples who simply applied for a marriage license — and any clerks who gave them one.

Pence was arguably the most anti-LGBT governor in the nation. At the very least, he gave North Carolina’s Pat McCrory a run for his money. With unchecked powers in the White House, what will he be able to do?

What will Trump do with the Supreme Court?

With one vacancy and three more moderate-to-liberal justices with an average age of 80, Trump with his Senate majority could push through just about any of his far-right evangelical Christian-approved nominees.

What will that mean for transgender rights? Abortion access? The death penalty? The Affordable Care Act? All those other issues in which religious conservatives go against basic human decency?

At the very least, church/state separation advocates better hope 83-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a few more years left in her.

Hemant Mehta, a member of FFRF, writes The Friendly Atheist blog on Patheos.com.

Freedom From Religion Foundation