By Mark Mueller | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Peter West, an avowed supporter of President Donald Trump, doesn’t shrink from calling it as he sees it.
Posting on Facebook and Twitter up to a dozen times a day, he has repeatedly railed against Muslims, calling moderate Islam “a myth” and voicing strong support for the president’s travel ban, which temporarily barred immigrants from seven majority‑
Muslim countries before a judge issued a stay last week.
West has assailed millennials as “snowflakes” who attend “cry‑ins” and described liberals as “smug and arrogant” people who find solace in puppies and Play‑Doh.
He has called Hillary Clinton an “evil witch” and former President Barack Obama a “bum,” at one point sharing a post that
challenged Obama’s authenticity as an African‑American because he wasn’t raised by a poor single mother in the inner city.
Were West some random internet flamethrower, his posts might garner a shrug in an age of intense political division and social media rancor. But West, 57, is a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, and some of his withering attacks, while popular with many of his 7,300 Facebook followers from around the country, run counter to the statements and philosophies of his own leader, Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, and his ultimate boss, Pope Francis.
Perhaps more significant, West’s online behavior breaks with the longstanding protocol that religious figures should refrain from political bomb‑throwing or the disparagement of other faiths, experts say.
The reluctance to campaign from the pulpit is rooted in the broad notion of separation of church and state and, more specifically, in a 1954 federal law. Known as the Johnson Amendment, after former President Lyndon Johnson, the measure explicitly bars tax‑exempt agencies, including the church, from participating in political campaigns and from endorsing or attacking candidates. Failure to comply can result in the loss of an institution’s tax‑exempt status.
Trump, speaking before religious leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast last week, vowed to “totally destroy” the Johnson
Amendment, saying he wanted to “allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.” Such a move, however, would require congressional action…read more of this story at NJ.com