May 2017 Church & State - May 2016

Polls Show Americans Do Not Support Repealing The Johnson Amendment

  AU admin

Three recent polls continued to demonstrate a majority of Americans do not support President Donald J. Trump’s call to “get rid of and totally destroy” the federal law that bars non-profit groups, including houses of worship, from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

This provision of the tax code, known as the “Johnson Amendment” for then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, who sponsored it in 1954, is designed to prevent tax-exempt groups from acting like political action committees.

Americans United asserts that the Johnson Amendment protects the integrity of both non-profits and elections, but Trump has campaigned to remove this provision, and some Republican leaders have indicated they want to repeal or alter it when they take up tax reform.

But it turns out that even most Republicans and evangelical Christians – Trump’s support base – don’t favor altering the Johnson Amendment, according to recent surveys.

A new Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 56 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 63 percent of Republicans oppose allowing houses of worship to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status. The poll found that 71 percent of overall respondents felt the same way.

Independent Sector, an organization representing non-profits and charitable foundations, just released a poll with similar results: 66 percent of Americans who voted for Trump don’t want non-profits endorsing political candidates, and 72 percent of all registered voters surveyed said the same.

The Evangelical Leaders Survey also found that 89 percent of evangelical leaders do not think that pastors should endorse politicians from the pulpit.

Thousands of organizations contacted Congress during the first week of April in support of the Johnson Amendment. Ninety-nine religious and denominational organizations sent a letter to Congress on April 4 asking legislators to reject calls from Trump to repeal or weaken the law.  The next day, AU joined nearly 4,500 other non-profit organizations in asking for the same thing.

One more note on the PRRI poll, which surveyed people on an array of religious liberty issues: It also found that 64 percent of respondents opposed allowing the owners of small businesses to be able to cite religious beliefs as justification for discriminating against LGBTQ people. An even larger majority – 70 percent – said LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.

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