A coalition of 99 church groups and other religious organizations urged Congress not to repeal the controversial Johnson Amendment Tuesday, despite the repeal effort being one of President Donald Trump’s signature campaign promises to evangelicals.
The Johnson Amendment, which is a piece of legislation prepared by former President Lyndon Johnson and passed by Congress in 1954, penalizes charitable organizations (including churches) with a loss of their tax-exempt status if those organizations publicly endorse or oppose political candidates.
“We, the 99 undersigned religious and denominational organizations strongly oppose any effort to weaken or eliminate protections that prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing political candidates,” the group of mostly liberal religious groups, that include the American Baptist Churches USA, Anti-Defamation League, Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and the International Baptist Fellowship, said in a letter to Congress.
“Current law serves as a valuable safeguard for the integrity of our charitable sector and campaign finance system. Religious leaders often use their pulpits to address the moral and political issues of the day. They also can, in their personal capacities and without the resources of their houses of worship, endorse and oppose political candidates,” it continued.
“Houses of worship can engage in public debate on any issue, host candidate forums, engage in voter registration drives, encourage people to vote, help transport people to the polls and even, with a few boundaries, lobby on specific legislation and invite candidates to speak. Tax-exempt houses of worship may not, however, endorse or oppose candidates or use their tax-exempt donations to contribute to candidates’ campaigns. Current law simply limits groups from being both a tax-exempt ministry and a partisan political entity,” the religious groups added.
At the National Prayer Breakfast in February, President Trump promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment.
“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” he asked.
“Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that. Remember,” Trump said to cheers and whistles.
SOURCE: The Christian Post – Leonardo Blair