The Johnson Amendment protects the integrity of tax-exempt organizations by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose candidates. Americans do not want our charities and houses of worship to be torn apart by partisan campaign politics.
The American tax code grants houses of worship and other nonprofits special tax-free status specifically because they work for the common good.
The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the tax code that protects the integrity of these tax-exempt organizations by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose political candidates. At the same time, these groups maintain robust free speech rights and can speak out on any social or political issue they choose.
This law, which has been in place for six decades, is a valuable safeguard that ensures political parties and candidates seeking power can't use houses of worship and other tax-exempt organizations as their tool. In addition, it protects the taxpayer, who should not be forced to subsidize partisan election activities.
President Donald Trump has vowed to "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment." This is a bad and widely unpopular idea. Repealing the law would divide congregations and dismantle the nonprofit structure as we know it.
That is why it is more important than ever to fight to protect the Johnson Amendment.
Reasons to Support the Johnson Amendment:
Houses of worship can already speak to political issues:
Under current law, churches and church leaders are already fully able to exercise their free speech. Among other things, houses of worship can speak to any issue they choose from the pulpit or in public, and they can write about issues in bulletins or their website. They can also host candidate forums, engage in voter registration drives, encourage people to vote, help transport people to the polls, and more. In addition, church leaders are absolutely free to support or endorse political candidates as private citizens—just like any of us can.
Current law is a safeguard for houses of worship:
Current law ensures that sanctuaries remain sacred and houses of worship focus on fostering community and performing good works. Changing the law would fundamentally change their character and diminish the distinctive role of the church. Tying America’s houses of worship to partisan elections would divide congregants, and set houses of worship against each other along political lines. Moreover, changing the Johnson Amendment would mean that politicians will pressure churches for endorsements.
Americans don't want houses of worship to endorse candidates:
According to several recent polls, the vast majority of Americans—including the majority of people of faith and faith leaders—oppose allowing churches and places of worship to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status. In addition, 99 religious and denomination organizations recently sent a letter to Congress telling it to protect the law. And 4,500 tax-exempt organizations just submitted a similar letter to Congress.