Earlier this month, I wrote about the latest attempt by some Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to undermine the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 federal law that bars houses of worship and other tax-exempt nonprofits from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.
House conservatives hoped to add an effective Johnson Amendment repeal to must-pass legislation to keep the federal government up and running through the end of the year. That effort remains a threat, but even as we fend it off, Republicans have opened up another front in their war on the amendment: They are now plotting to insert language to nullify the amendment into a tax bill the Republicans hope to ram through Congress before this session ends.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who oversees tax bills for the GOP in the House, added several provisions to the bill yesterday designed to appease far-right conservatives. Among them is a provision designed to make the Johnson Amendment a dead letter.
Americans United has seen this language before. We’ve defeated this language before. With the help of our allies, we hope to do so again.
As AU has pointed out many, many times, the American people don’t want this change. Americans support the Johnson Amendment because they don’t want to see our houses of worship and charitable nonprofits become politicized. Many people feel that our nation is already too bitterly divided over politics these days. Houses of worship and charitable organizations can be places of refuge, where people can go to seek some unity. Repealing the Johnson Amendment is the first step toward turning our tax-exempt organizations into partisan political units. Americans don’t want that.
The threat keeps surfacing because of pressure from Religious Right groups (who have undoubtedly been egged on by President Donald Trump’s 2017 vow to “get rid of and totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment.) But they’re in the minority.
The vast majority of charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations support keeping the Johnson Amendment as is because it protects all of us from politicians’ and donors’ demands for partisan endorsements and from the diversion of charitable assets to campaign coffers. Indeed, 106 religious and denominational organizations, more than 5,800 charitable nonprofit organizations, more than 4,500 faith leaders, and state charities officials have all written to Congress to urge it to protect the Johnson Amendment.
America’s religious leaders and the American people have been clear on this issue. They don’t support church-based partisan politicking. It’s time for Congress to start listening. You can help us get the word out by contacting your member today.