A new survey from the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland confirms what previous polls have shown: The majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents agree that we should keep the Johnson Amendment, a provision in current law that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates, as is.
The new poll revealed that 88 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 71 of Republicans don’t want the Johnson Amendment to be repealed, with 55 percent of people reporting that they believe keeping the provision in place is “very important.”
Additionally, 56 percent of evangelicals expressed support for the Johnson Amendment. The only group that expressed support for repealing the law were self-identified Republican evangelicals, and even that was a bare majority of 52 percent.
“Americans are frustrated with the degree of partisan polarization in this country. The idea of churches and universities becoming channels for partisan political activity makes this proposal a non-starter with Republican and Democratic voters alike.” Steven Kull, director of PPC, said in a press release.
Unfortunately, results like this haven’t fazed some politicians. Republicans in the House are ignoring the vast majority of the American people by keeping language that severely weakens the Johnson Amendment in their tax bill. Although that language isn’t included in the Senate tax bill, there’s have been rumors that some members, such as U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), are working on inserting language that undermines the Johnson Amendment into their plan.
The Johnson Amendment protects the integrity of houses of worship and nonprofits.
If this survey reiterates anything, it’s that repealing the Johnson Amendment is extremely unpopular. In fact, 5,500 non-profit organizations, 4,300 faith leaders and more than 100 religious and denominational organizations have voiced their support for the provision. Additionally, nearly 100 members of Congress recently sent colleagues a letter asking them to protect the Johnson Amendment.
Americans United supports the amendment because it protects the integrity of houses of worship and our elections. Current law ensures that houses of worship aren’t transformed into political tools by candidates seeking power. That is likely why the vast majority of Americans believe houses of worship should stay out of partisan campaigns.
Houses of worship, like all tax-exempt organizations, can speak out about political issues. But they can’t endorse political candidates or parties; if members of the clergy want to endorse candidates, they can do so in their own individual capacity.
The Senate is currently debating its version of the tax bill and could consider adding an amendment to repeal the Johnson Amendment. We need you to contact your senators and urge them to protect the Johnson Amendment. Email your senators today and tell them that you support the current law that prohibits all tax-exempt organizations from endorsing and opposing candidates.
To learn more about the Johnson Amendment and AU’s decades-long fight to protect it, visit Project Fair Play.