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Presidents From Good Government, Religious and Nonprofit Communities Speak Out in Opposition to Altering the Johnson Amendment

Nov. 2, 2017

Presidents From Good Government, Religious and Nonprofit Communities Speak Out in Opposition to Altering the Johnson Amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of the upcoming release of today’s tax reform bill, nonprofit and religious leaders are speaking out in opposition to the possible inclusion of changes to the provision in tax law keeping 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in partisan electioneering (as reported by the New York Times yesterday).

Nonprofit and religious opposition to changes in this law, titled the Johnson Amendment, has been widespread. Letters have been sent to the U.S. Congress from 5,500 nonprofits from across the country, 4,000 faith leaders and more than 100 religious and denominational groups opposing changes to the law, saying those changes could lead to partisan manipulation, degradation of the separation of church and state, and more undisclosed money in our elections.

Here’s what the leaders of five groups concerned about the changes had to say:

“Congressional Republicans are maneuvering to usher in Citizen’s United 2.0, scheming to manipulate the tax code to convert religious organizations into tax-deductible Dark Money organizations. The scale of threat to our democracy is comparable to the original Citizens United disaster.”
– Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen

“Any changes to the Johnson Amendment present an existential threat to the work of charitable nonprofits, foundations and houses of worship. We cannot effectively serve our communities if we are invaded by the divisiveness of partisan politics. The change proposed in the House bill would destroy the refuge where people can come together, ignoring party labels, to solve community problems. Nonprofits don’t want this change. Houses of worship don’t want this change. Foundations don’t want this change. Law enforcement doesn’t want this change. The Johnson Amendment has served our nation well for more than 60 years. Don’t mess with something that isn’t broken.”
– Tim Delaney, president and CEO, National Council of Nonprofits

“This tax bill will deform, not reform, the charitable sector, including our houses of worship. Gutting the law that protects 501(c)(3) organizations from candidates pressing for endorsements threatens to destroy our congregations and charities from within over disagreements on partisan campaigns. Under the current tax law, pastors speak truth to power and preach on moral issues, no matter how controversial. This change has been pushed by a tiny minority and is opposed by the vast majority of Americans and churchgoers, across party lines and faith traditions. Pastors and people of faith know that there’s nothing free about a pulpit that is bought and paid for by political campaign donations or beholden to partisan interests.”
– Amanda Tyler, executive director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

“The House bill’s proposed change to the Johnson Amendment jeopardizes the critical nonpartisan identity of the charitable sector and the purpose our organizations serve in our communities. The bill will force charities to divert precious resources from their missions to manage partisan political divides among their board members, donors and constituents. Instead, Congress should preserve the Johnson Amendment and create very clear rules on political activity so that charities and the communities they serve can more fully participate in and inform the public policy process.”
– Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector

“For more than 60 years, the Johnson Amendment has been an important bulwark that protects the integrity of America’s houses of worship against partisan political campaigns that would pressure them for endorsements. The majority of Americans support the current law, including most religious leaders, who do not want to see our houses of worship torn apart by campaign politics. House Republicans should abandon this irresponsible attempt to repeal a law that protects our houses of worship, charitable nonprofits and taxpayers.”
– Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State