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Tell Your MoCs to Keep Church and State Separate By Leaving the Johnson Amendment Alone

Tell your members of Congress to reject any efforts to destroy or rewrite the Johnson Amendment, a restriction that affirms the separation of church and state.

Many people have wondered why so many evangelical Christians embraced candidate Donald Trump so heartily. Here’s your answer: He promised to gut the Johnson Amendment. Sponsored by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson and passed in 1954, it curtails the ability of tax-exempt organizations–churches included–to speak out on political issues.

According to the IRS web site, the Johnson Amendment says that tax-exempt organizations “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

To be clear: A pastor is in fact free to stand up at his megachurch pulpit today and endorse a specific candidate for public office during an election cycle. But he would put his megachurch’s tax-exempt status at risk if he did so.

Killing the Johnson amendment would embolden that pastor to endorse candidates by name to his congregants without fear of the IRS coming down on him. Mega-churches could in essence choose to become political super PACs, and all that that implies. It’d be the second coming of Citizens United, and we’re only sort-of joking when we say that.

If you value the separation of church and state, you want the Johnson Amendment to stay in place and untouched.

Important: Do you live in a part of the country that is dominated by evangelical right-wing Christianity? Then it’s extra-important for you to call your members of Congress and speak in favor of retaining the Johnson Amendment.

Sample script: “Hello, I am (Firstname Lastname, from town, zip code), and I am calling to ask Senator/House Rep (Lastname) to fight any attempts to destroy or rewrite the Johnson Amendment. The law prevents tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates. If it is removed, it would inject politics into the religious sphere in a way never before seen. Church and state should stay separate, for the good of both. Please retain the Johnson Amendment in its current form. Thank you.”

 

Read the tax code language that governs political expressions by tax-exempt organizations:

https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/the-restriction-of-political-campaign-intervention-by-section-501-c-3-tax-exempt-organizations

 

Read an NPR brief on what the Johnson Amendment is, and isn’t:

http://www.npr.org/2017/02/03/513187940/the-johnson-amendment-in-five-questions-and-answers

 

Read about how Trump pleased the evangelical right by pledging to scrub the Johnson Amendment:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/how-trump-is-trying-to-put-more-money-in-politics/493823/

 

Read a Nonprofit Quarterly editorial speaking against the repeal of the Johnson Amendment:

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/02/06/losing-johnson-amendment-destroy-unique-political-role-nonprofits/

 

Read about how the National Coalition of Nonprofits has launched a campaign to resist any changes to the Johnson Amendment:

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/03/02/national-coalition-nonprofits-launches-campaign-oppose-repeal-johnson-amendment/

 

Read about a poll by Independent Sector, a champion of nonprofits, that shows a majority of voters support preserving the Johnson Amendment:

http://www.independentsector.org/news-post/national-poll-johnson-amendment/

 

Read an Atlantic piece from a rabbi who urges keeping the Johnson Amendment as is:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/a-rabbi-defends-the-johnson-amendment/516981/