Voters Across Party Lines Agree: Leave The Johnson Amendment Alone

As Congress and President Donald Trump gear up to tackle tax reform, they’d be wise to pay attention to the majority of Americans who don’t want tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, to endorse or oppose political candidates.

The Johnson Amendment, which is the provision of the current tax code that prohibits all tax-exempt non-profits, including houses of worship, from engaging in partisan politics, has protected the integrity of American elections and our non-profits for more than 60 years.

Trump has vowed to “get rid of and totally destroy” this protection, and some Republicans in Congress have said they want to include a provision to repeal or alter the law in their tax reform efforts.

But the majority of Americans – including those who voted for Trump – don’t want any changes to the current law. Independent Sector, an organization representing non-profits and charitable foundations, just released the latest survey that backs this up.

Independent Sector’s poll showed that 66 percent of Americans who voted for Trump don’t want non-profits endorsing political candidates, and 72 percent of all registered voters surveyed felt the same way.

“Charitable organizations are among the most trusted entities in the United States,” said Allison Grayson, director of policy development and analysis at Independent Sector. “That public trust demands that 501(c)(3) public charities remain above the political fray, advocating and informing policymakers but not engaging in partisan political activity.”

A majority of Americans don't want to hear political endorsements when they're in their house of worship.

The Independent Sector survey is in line with the findings of another recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute. PRRI looked at how those surveyed felt about changing the Johnson Amendment specifically for churches and houses of worship.

Not only did 71 percent of all respondents say they didn’t want churches endorsing candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status, but once again the groups who supported Trump indicated they don’t support pulpit politicking: 62 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of white evangelical Protestants oppose churches endorsing political candidates.

These are only two of the latest surveys that show Americans don’t want non-profits to endorse candidates – several other polls produced similar results.

People of faith understand that it is not in the best interest of their houses of worship to become de facto political action committees. They realize their houses of worship already have the ability to speak out on political issues and legislation, and that faith leaders as private citizens have the right to endorse candidates. 

Apparently Trump and some Republican leaders haven’t yet received this message. Now, it’s up to you to make sure your voice is heard. Urge your elected officials to leave this part of the tax code alone.

Check out Project Fair Play to learn about the Johnson Amendment and Americans United’s decades-long effort to safeguard it.