Our Talking Points
The ban on partisan politics, known as the Johnson Amendment, protects the integrity of houses of worship.
The Johnson Amendment applies to all tax-exempt nonprofit organizations uniformly, not only to houses of worship.
The Johnson Amendment does not bar houses of worship from speaking out on political issues. Faith leaders are free to speak to their congregations about political issues, as long as they do not endorse or oppose a political party or candidate for public office.
The Johnson Amendment does not prohibit religious leaders from endorsing or opposing candidates or political parties in their own personal capacity.
Houses of worship have the right to refuse tax-exempt status if they want to endorse candidates.
If 501(c)(3) organizations are allowed to engage in political endorsements, they essentially become Political Action Committees (PACs).
It seems in recent years that whenever churches break the federal law prohibiting houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) non-profits from endorsing or opposing candidates, the Internal Revenue Service treats those violations with a shrug. And with all the talk this election season about repealing that anti-politicking law, Americans United felt it necessary to ask the IRS what it plans to do going forward to enforce a law that is good for both democracy and faith.
A dozen San Antonio interfaith leaders gathered in front of the Bexar County Courthouse on Wednesday to remind houses of worship that partisan politics violates federal law and could threaten their nonprofit tax-exempt status.
If you were a social conservative, Donald Trump’s acceptance speech had to leave you crying in your diet Coke. After all you’ve done for him this election season what you get is a pledge to defend LBGTQ rights from radical Islamic terrorism? Sheesh. Actually you did get something. You got the one item on your agenda that Trump actually seems to care about.
Among the many policy positions embedded in the 2016 Republican Party Platform is a call to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a controversial Internal Revenue Service regulation that has come under fire from churches and religious freedom advocates in recent years.
Letter to Religious Leaders for Election Season 2016
Dear Religious Leader,
As Election Day draws near, candidates and their supporters may seek help or endorsements from your house of worship. Thus, this is a good time to familiarize yourself with the law governing electioneering by nonprofit organizations. Read More…
Public Opinion Polls Show Broad Opposition To Church Partisanship
In September of 2008, Southern Baptist-affiliated LifeWay Research released a public opinion poll that showed broad opposition to church endorsements of political candidates or any use of church resources to support candidates’ campaigns.
Church & State Article: Religious Right Groups Want Pastors To ‘Cross The Line’ On Church Politicking – And Spark A Court Showdown
The Alliance Defense Fund, a national Religious Right legal group founded by television preachers, urged religious leaders to violate the law barring church electioneering during services on Sept. 28, 2008. (The group repeated the stunt in 2009 and plans to do so again in 2010.) This article from Church & State magazine explains why clergy should reject the ADF overture for legal and ethical reasons.
Pew Research Center Poll on Religion in Public Life
The Pew Research Center is a respected organization that conducts some of the best polling available about the role of religion in public life. In August of 2008, the Pew Center released a poll finding that more Americans than ever – including self-identified conservatives – were questioning the appropriateness of mixing religion and politics. See the full results of the poll here.
Brochure: Religion, Partisan Politics and Tax Exemption
This brochure provides an overview of church politicking. Download PDF
Blog Post from Wall of Separation, "Doing Damage: Committee Says IRS Failure To Update Church Audit Procedures Is Harming The Agency"
In a lengthy report covering many areas of tax exemption, the Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT) said last week that the IRS’s leadership has dropped the ball when it comes to policing houses of worship that violate federal law.
Blog Post from Wall of Separation, "The Persistence of Public Politicking"
Excellent article detailing the history of this issue and the continued refusal of some faith groups to obey the law and respect the sacredness of houses of worship from partisan politics.
Article from Lutheran Pastor, "Beware of the Lutherans: Darrow and the Danger of Labeling"
The church is called to refute those movements that seek to harm others. Jesus shows us time after time that he stands in solidarity with the outcasts and the disenfranchised. Being the church is about being called to discern, witness and act appropriately when the rhetoric of fear threatens to stifle the good news of God’s reign, whether in the voting booth or in backyard conversations with our neighbor. Our silence during such times of fearmongering is all too often interpreted as complicity.