The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the tax code that prohibits all non-profit organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. This provision has been protecting the integrity of our tax-exempt charities, houses of worship and our elections for more than 60 years.
Nonetheless, President Trump has vowed to “get rid of and totally destroy” the provision. He claims people of faith—particularly evangelical Christians—support repeal of the law; yet a poll released this month by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) strongly refutes that claim.
The poll shows that “more than seven in ten (71%) Americans oppose allowing churches and places of worship to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status, compared to only 22% who favor such a policy.
“All major religious groups in the country” feel the same way. And perhaps most relevant to refuting President Trump’s claims: 56% of white evangelical Protestants and 63% of Republicans oppose allowing houses of worship to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status.
Trump’s claim that people of faith want to repeal the Johnson Amendment is clearly false.
The PRRI poll should not be a surprise. Several other polls taken over the last few years reached similar results. And religious denominations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society and the Union for Reform Judaism, have been on the record opposing repeal or a weakening of current law.
People of faith know that current law protects the integrity of their houses of worship by ensuring that they are not transformed into nothing more than political campaign offices. They also know that current law still allows tax-exempt houses of worship to speak out on political issues and legislation. And that religious leaders can endorse candidates in their individual capacity.
A majority of Americans don't want their houses of worship engaged in partisan politics.
The lack of public support has not stopped Trump from pushing his plan. And members of Congress have also vowed to try repeal the law as part of their efforts to reform the tax code this year.
As Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said in February: “As House Republicans advance pro-growth tax reform, I intend to include repealing the damaging effects of the Johnson amendment.”
That is why AU continues to fight to maintain the current law. In fact, recently AU joined 85 other non-profit organizations in a letter to Trump opposing any efforts to repeal or alter the law. Check out our Project Fair Play to learn more about why the Johnson Amendment is so important and why we’ve been fighting for decades to safeguard it.