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Resources


Looking to Learn More
About Church Electioneering?
We Have Several Resources
That You Can Use.

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Resources


Looking to Learn More
About Church Electioneering?
We Have Several Resources
That You Can Use.

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Talking Points


Talking Points


Current law protects all tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose candidates because it shields them from being transformed into partisan campaign operations or a way to funnel money to political candidates.


Current Law Protects the Integrity and Independence of Houses of Worship

Houses of worship minister to their congregants and communities and speak out on issues of justice and morality, but stay above the fray of campaigns for political office. Changing the law would fundamentally change their character and diminish their distinctive role.

Individuals, corporations, and partisan groups could offer large donations to congregations and then demand they take a position on a candidate, transforming houses of worship into conduits for political activity and expenditures. And after they make an endorsement, ouses of worship could feel pressure to refrain from speaking out on issues of the day if that would conflict with a candidate’s positions.

Becoming enmeshed in the campaign process could also divide congregants along political lines and set houses of worship against each other.


Houses of Worship Can Already Engage in the Political Process

Under current law, faith leaders and houses of worship can preach or speak out on any political or social issue or on legislation. For example, houses of worship can speak out on political or social issues. For instance, houses of worship can take positions on issues of concern, lobby on legislation and endorse or oppose non-partisan referendum; host candidate forums and distribute answers to candidate questionnaires; and encourage people to vote, including through voter registration drives, and driving people to the polls. 

In addition, faith leaders can endorse or even become candidates when they do so in their personal capacity and not on behalf of their congregations.


Current Law Protects the Integrity of All Tax-Exempt Organizations

The government grants organizations tax-exempt status in order to encourage them to carry out charitable work. Repealing the Johnson Amendment would turn charities into political campaign operations, decreasing the amount of time and resources dedicated to good works and eroding the public’s trust in all non-profits. 

Our current tax code is designed to incentivize donations to organizations that serve the community. Changing current law would instead incentivize donations to organizations to support political candidates. 


Current Law Protects Taxpayers

Repeal of the Johnson Amendment would result in taxpayers subsidizing political campaigns rather than nonpartisan charity work


Current Law Protects The Integrity of Our Election System.

Repeal of the Johnson Amendment would allow partisan campaign operatives to anonymously funnel unlimited campaign funds through houses of worship and other tax-exempt organizations, essentially transforming charitable organizations into super PACs.


The Vast Majority of Americans Support Current Law

A poll conducted in March 2017 by Independent Sector found that 72% of voters want to keep the Johnson Amendment in place.

A March 2017 poll by PRRI, which also looked at religious affiliation of those polled, found "more than seven in ten (71%) Americans oppose allowing churches and places of worship to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status, compared to only 22% who favor such a policy."  It found that sixty-two percent of Republicans and fifty-six percent of white evangelical Protestants also support current law. 


For all of these reasons, we support current law and oppose its repeal. We also oppose proposals that fall short of a full repeal of the prohibition but still undermine existing protections. Legislation that would inject an “insubstantial” standard or allow electioneering if it is in furtherance of an organization’s mission would risk significant government intrusion and scrutiny. Maintaining a clear and total prohibition against campaign intervention is important to the free exercise of religion

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Letters


Letters


March 2017 Letter from 4,500 Non-Profit Organizations

"Nonpartisanship is a cornerstone principle that has strengthened the public’s trust of the charitable community. "                         

March 2017 Letter from 99 Religious & Denominational Organizations

"The charitable sector, particularly houses of worship, should not become another cog in a political machine or another loophole in campaign finance laws."   

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February 2017 Letter from 86 Non-Profit Organizations

"For more than 60 years, this rule . . . has helped maintain the integrity and autonomy of our religious and charitable sectors and preserve the boundary separating church and state."             


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Polls


The Vast Majority of Americans

Support the Johnson Amendment

Polls


The Vast Majority of Americans

Support the Johnson Amendment

72% of Americans support the Johnson Amendment, including 66% of Trump voters, 78% of Clinton voters, and 77% of independent voters. 


71% of Americans oppose allowing churches and places of worship to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status.

62% of Republicans and 56% of white evangelical Christians also oppose allowing churches and places of worship to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status.


"Nearly 90 percent of evangelical leaders do not think pastors should endorse politicians from the pulpit."


"Even among the religious groups that are most in favor of church endorsements of candidates – black Protestants and white evangelicals – just 45% of the former and 37% of  the latter say it’s OK for churches to endorse political candidates. And support is lower still among Catholics (28%), the religiously unaffiliated (26%) and white mainline Protestants (21%)."


"Eight in 10 (79 percent) say it is inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church. Three-quarters say churches should steer clear of endorsements."


"Pew Research Center surveys conducted over the past decade show a steady consensus that churches and other houses of worship should not come out in favor of one candidate over another during elections. Currently, about two-thirds of Americans take this view (66%), while 27% say churches should endorse one candidate over another."


"Two-thirds of the public (66%) say that churches and other houses of worship should not endorse one candidate over another, which is unchanged since 2004 (65%)."


"When asked to respond to the statement, 'I believe it is appropriate for churches to use their resources to campaign for candidates for public office,' 85 percent disagree including 73 percent who disagree strongly."

52% agree "that churches who publicly endorse candidates for public office should lose their tax exemption."


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Editorials & Op-Eds


Editorials and Op-Eds in Support of Keeping the Johnson Amendment

Editorials & Op-Eds


Editorials and Op-Eds in Support of Keeping the Johnson Amendment

 
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Legislation and Executive Orders


Legislation and Executive Orders


S. 264 / H.R. 781

“The Free Speech Fairness Act”

In January 2017, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced this bill on the Senate side and Representatives Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Jody Hice (R-GA) introduced it on the House side. These bills are identical to a bill introduced last Congress in conjunction with Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an annual event during which certain groups try to persuade religious leaders to break federal law and endorse candidates for public office.

The bill does not fully repeal current law, but significantly undermines it. It would allow tax-exempt organizations—both houses of worship and secular nonprofits—to make statements endorsing or opposing candidates for public office so long as those statements are made in the ordinary course of carrying out their tax-exempt purpose and don’t incur more than de minimis incremental expenses. Although this might sound like a narrow exemption to current law, it is quite broad. For example, a house of worship could include an endorsement of a candidate in every sermon or Bible class, or any other activity that could serve another purpose other than just the endorsement. The houses of worship could also include an endorsement in its bulletins, newsletters, and other materials.  

 


H.R. 172

This bill, introduced by Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) in January 2017, would completely repeal the law that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates. Both religious and secular tax-exempt organizations could “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign” supporting or opposing a political candidate for public office. Jones has been introducing this bill for more than 15 years. In 2002, the House actually voted down this bill 178-239, with 46 Republicans voting against it. 


Draft “Religious Freedom” Executive Order

In early February 2017, a draft "religious freedom" executive order was leaked. It contains a provision that would undermine the law that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates. Although the provision would not repeal the law fully, it would limit the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to enforce it. That the President is contemplating executive action on this issue is no surprise considering he has vowed to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.” It is unclear whether the President will ultimately sign this executive order or any of the provisions within it.