March 30, 2018 – Restoring Religious Freedom of Speech
What is the Johnson Amendment?
In 1954, the Johnson Amendment was added to the U.S. tax code. This Internal Revenue provision prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from voicing political views on any issues or candidates, as a condition of receiving a tax exemption. These types of organizations include churches, charities, secular foundations, and humanitarian aid institutions.
What is the problem?
By prohibiting the voicing of political views, none of these organizations can weigh in to political campaigns or offer opinions on pending legislation. Churches, for example, can’t inform their congregations of candidates who oppose abortion or take stances that are out of line with the teachings of the church. Doing so puts them at risk of having their tax-exempt status revoked. This is a form of religious censorship by the Federal government, and these organizations need to exercise religious freedom without federal interference.
What are we doing about it?
Unfortunately, language repealing the amendment failed to make its way into the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act when the bill was finalized last year. However, I have signed onto H.R. 172, introduced by Representative Walter Jones, which would repeal the Johnson amendment in its entirety.
On May 4, 2017, President Trump signed the “Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” This order directs the Treasury to delay action on cases related to religious institutions or its members. Until Congress repeals the amendment, this is one step the administration can take to help protect the first amendment rights of churches and their congregations.
What are they saying?
"When we deny a religious institution's right to speak freely, we are effectively denying their right to worship openly. Pastors, preachers, and community leaders of all creeds or convictions must be able to articulate their beliefs without vague federal government regulations stifling their views. It is time we repeal the Johnson Amendment and restore the fundamental rights of these vital participants in the American democratic process." – Representative Walter Jones