FY2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill

the house version of the bill:

Section 112 of the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill, which provides funding for the District of Columbia and various federal agencies, including the IRS, would make it incredibly difficult for the IRS to enforce violations of the Johnson Amendment by houses of worship. It would require a determination by the IRS Commissioner, notification of two committees in Congress, and a 90-day waiting period before tax exempt status could be denied. These hurdles would slow down, if not entirely halt, any investigations and further politicize them. In addition, because this special treatment applies to houses of worship and not to secular organizations, the provision likely violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

On June 13, 2018, the House Appropriations Committee took up the bill. 145 national organizations signed onto a letter telling members of the committee to oppose the inclusion of this language in the appropriations bill. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and co-sponsor Barbara Lee (D-CA) offered an amendment to strip the provision. The measure failed with a vote of 21-28.

The appropriations bill was merged with six other appropriations bills and the House adopted the bill on August 1, 2018.

The Senate FSGG appropriations bill, which passed out of committee on June 21, 2018, does not contain the troubling house language.

The Committee Vote: 

Yes: Aguilar, Bishop, Cartwright, Clark, Cuellar, DeLauro, Kaptur, Kilmer, Lee, Lowey, McCollum, Meng, Pingree, Pocan, Price, Quigley, Royal-Allard, Ryan, Serrano, Viscolsky, Wasserman Schultz

No: Aderholt, Calvert, Carter, Cole, Culberson, Diaz-Balart, Fleischmann, Fortenberry, Frelinghuysen, Graves, Harris, Herrera Beutler, Jenkins, Joyce, Moolenaar, Newhouse, Palazzo, Roby, Rogers, Rooney, Rutherford, Simpson, Stewart, Taylor, Valadao, Womack, Yoder, Young


"One of the characteristics of American religious institutions that has made them so sacred is that they are separate from government and separate from campaign politics. If Americans want to get involved in partisan elections we know how to do that. . . . To preserve their sacred place in American society, houses of worship must stay above the political fray and refrain from endorsing candidates for political office." — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

"Americans oppose allowing places of worship to endorse political candidates. Americans and our Constitution are on the right side of this issue."  — Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

“We should think very carefully before we legitimate using religious institutions as a conduit for political contributions or for candidate or party centered political advocacy. That would threaten rather than enhance the freedom of these institutions. And I think it would lead to great cynicism about the activities of these institutions.” — Rep. David Price (D-NC)

“Allowing this section to become law would put at risk the ability of churches and other places of worship to continue to serve as nonpartisan places for worship, reflection, and community rather than as another political battleground.” — Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA)

"[P]laces of worship are intended to be just that. They inspire belief and they build community. By repealing . . . the Johnson amendment, divisive themes are introduced into the unified environment that religious organizations strive to build, thereby undermining their core objectives."  Rep. Mike Quigley  (D-IL)