Religious, Secular Groups to Trump: Preserve Church and Charity Nonpartisanship

March 8, 2017

Religious, Secular Groups to Trump: Preserve Church and Charity Nonpartisanship

Johnson Amendment Should Not Be Repealed or Altered, 86 Groups Say

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump and members of Congress should preserve the Johnson Amendment to keep partisan politics out of 501(c)(3) organizations, 86 religious and secular groups said in a letter (PDF) to Trump and Congress today.

The Johnson Amendment recently has gained national attention after Trump vowed at the National Prayer Breakfast in February to “totally destroy” the law. The provision protects charities and religious organizations from political meddling and protects the separation of church and state. Without it, Americans could not be sure their charitable donations were going solely to a charitable mission, and religious organizations could become a funnel for tax-deductible secret spending in elections.

“Without this rule, nonpartisan charities and places of worship would be open to manipulation for political ends,” the letter said. “Up to now, charities and religious organizations have been insulated from electioneering, and instead have been committed to doing good work, like alleviating poverty, ministering to the spirit, curing disease, and addressing other basic human and social needs. Changing the law jeopardizes the public’s confidence that their charitable contributions would be used for these universally valued purposes rather than mere partisan politics.”

The letter concludes, “Politicizing the charitable sector harms our communities and our relationship with the public. We urge you to reject any attempt to remove the campaign intervention ban which protects our charitable and religious sectors from being used for political purposes.”

Read the letter (PDF).

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The Bright Lines Project is pushing to change the tax code to include clear definitions and safe harbors for nonprofit political activity. Our expert drafting team has been working for years to create clear, fair rules that would apply to all nonprofits and would encourage nonpartisan civic engagement while removing opportunities for abuse. Read our proposal.