The 115th Congress is winding down, but before it does, it looks like we’re going to have to fend off an 11th-hour attack on the Johnson Amendment.
A handful of House Republicans have for years been trying to undermine the amendment, a federal law from 1954 that bars houses of worship and other tax-exempt non-profits from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. They accelerated their efforts after President Donald Trump took office, perhaps emboldened by Trump’s February 2017 vow to “get rid of and totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment.
These legislators have repeatedly promoted efforts in Congress to repeal or weaken the provision. Now, they’re about to give it one more shot, attempting to push language undercutting the Johnson Amendment in a must-pass spending bill to fund the operations of the federal government. This provision would make it nearly impossible to enforce violations of the law by houses of worship by weighing the IRS down with various onerous bureaucratic requirements.
Americans United has blocked these efforts before, and we’re going to do our best to do it again. But our opponents are determined. They know this will become much harder to do come January. U.S. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), one of the chief proponents of gutting the Johnson Amendment, lost his seat in November, and once Democrats are in charge of the House, we hope that anti-Johnson Amendment proposals won't get as much traction in that body.
The American people are clear: They don’t want to see their houses of worship politicized – polls on this issue aren’t even close. The vast majority of U.S. faith leaders agree. That’s why more than 4,500 religious leaders from across the theological spectrum have signed a joint letter to Congress telling its leaders to leave the Johnson Amendment alone.
Unfortunately, numbers like that mean nothing to Religious Right groups or the politicians who do their bidding. It’s why it’s crucial that we stop this latest effort to open the floodgates for church-based partisan politicking. We need your help. Please let your representative and senators know that you support the Johnson Amendment and don’t want to see any language weakening the law added to the spending bill.