Action Alert

Keep politics out of the pulpit!

Johnson Amendment in peril, take action TODAY

Please take immediate action to save the Johnson Amendment!

We know we have asked you before to contact Congress to preserve the Johnson Amendment, but it has never been more urgent than today. The just-released GOP tax rewrite bill includes a special rule that would allow churches — and only churches, not secular nonprofits — to endorse political candidates or parties so long as they do so as part of a religious gathering.

We need you to tell lawmakers to protect the Johnson Amendment’s full enforcement. It is crucial that you contact your representatives TODAY — by phone and email if at all possible — and ask them to strike Section 5201 from the House tax rewrite bill.

CONTACT

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Explain that tax exemption is a privilege, not a right. And the government has correctly attached some strings to this privilege because we want charitable donations to go to charitable work, not political campaigns.

Let them know that unlike other 501(c)(3)s, churches do not have to report any financial information to the IRS. Every other charity in this country has to file a Form 990 with the IRS that tracks every penny that comes in and goes out. Churches don’t report any of this information. They are financial black holes.

BACKGROUND

Remember, the Johnson Amendment keeps all 501(c)(3)s, including churches, from endorsing political candidates. But here's the catch: The budget only defunds enforcement against churches; other nonprofits still have to obey the law.

Section 5201 in the tax rewrite bill is framed as a special rule that would allow churches to, for example, organize and promote an event where a crowd listens to a pastor talk with a preferred candidate at the state capitol about God and politics, and the event could include distributing sample ballots with the church’s favored candidates marked.

This rule would also put the government in the uncomfortable business of regulating church conduct to decide when it qualifies as religious and when it is purely political. This creates serious concerns that the government would be required to monitor, and potentially censor, churches’ religious messages.

The Religious Right’s push to undo the Johnson Amendment goes against public opinion. According to an evangelical polling group, Lifeway Research, whose slogan is “Biblical Solutions for Life,” nearly 80 percent of Americans say it’s inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church and 75 percent do not believe it is appropriate for churches to publicly endorse candidates. This is a nonpartisan issue, with only 1 in 4 Democrats and 1 in 3 Republicans supporting the idea of churches endorsing political candidates.

The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO), an organization made up of state nonprofit regulators, including state attorneys general, state secretaries of state, and other agencies that are charged with regulating nonprofit regulation, sent a letter to congressional leaders opposing efforts to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment.

Recently, our friends at Americans United delivered more than 4,000 letters from faith leaders from around the country to Congress — all arguing that the rule should remain in place. In April, a letter signed by nearly 5,500 nonprofit organizations, including FFRF, urged Congress to protect the Johnson Amendment.

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