1. Letter
  2. Voting & Elections

78 Organizations Call on Congress to Oppose the Repeal of the Johnson Amendment

By Yasmine Taeb


On November 3, 2017, FCNL joined 78 organizations in sending a letter to Reps. Kevin Brady (TX) and Richard Neal (MA), respectively the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. This letter called on the Chairman and Ranking Member to oppose an amendment in the tax reform bill that would repeal the Johnson Amendment.

The Johnson Amendment prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches and other houses of worship, from endorsing political candidates. This is an important law that protects houses of worship from engaging in partisan politics and helps to stop the flow of more secret money into our elections.

Read the full letter below:

Dear Chairman Brady and Ranking Member Neal:

The 78 undersigned organizations write to strongly oppose the inclusion of any language in the tax reform package that would repeal or weaken the long-standing federal law that is sometimes referred to as the “Johnson Amendment.” The current law protects the integrity and independence of tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose candidates. Americans support existing law because they do not want our charities and houses of worship to be torn apart by partisan campaign politics.

Repealing or weakening the law would allow candidates and political parties to pressure tax-exempt organizations for endorsements, transforming them into tools for their own political gain. It would also fundamentally alter the character of tax-exempt organizations, dividing congregations and communities, eroding the public trust, and turning them into conduits for the flow of secret money.

Under the current law, which has been in place for the last six decades, houses of worship and nonprofit organizations have maintained robust free speech rights and can speak out on any political and social issue that they see as important. They currently can engage in public debate on any issue, and even, with a few boundaries, lobby on specific legislation. Moreover, in the election arena, they can – on a nonpartisan basis – host candidate forums, hold voter registration drives, encourage people to vote, help transport people to the polls, and invite candidates to speak. They simply cannot endorse or oppose candidates and maintain their special tax-exempt status.

The Johnson Amendment serves as a valuable safeguard that protects our nonprofit organizations and our political process. Therefore, we firmly urge you to oppose any language in the tax reform legislation that would weaken the current law.

Sincerely,

African American Ministers In Action

African Methodist Episcopal Church

Alliance of Baptists

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

American Atheists

American Conference of Cantors

American Humanist Association

American Jewish Committee (AJC)

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Anti-Defamation League

Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists

Baptist Center for Ethics

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Baptist Women in Ministry

Bend the Arc Jewish Action

BoardSource

Burlesque Hall of Fame, Inc.

Campaign Legal Center

Catholics for Choice

Center for American Progress

Center for Inquiry

Center on Conscience & War

Central Conference of American Rabbis

Christian Board of Publication

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Disciples Center for Public Witness

Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy

End Citizens United

The Episcopal Church

Equal Partners in Faith

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Feeding America

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Friends of the Earth

Girls Inc.

Girls on the Run International

Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc.

The Henry Ford

Human Rights Campaign

Interfaith Alliance

International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Jewish Federations of North America

Lymphoma Foundation of America

Medical Students for Choice

Men of Reform Judaism

Methodist Federation for Social Action

Muslim Public Affairs Council

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Association of Charitable Gift Planners

National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

National Council of Nonprofits

National Human Services Assembly

New Ways Ministry

Nonprofit Leadership Alliance

North American Bramble Growers Research Foundation

Pension Fund of the Christian Church

People For the American Way

Phillips Theological Seminary

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Public Citizen

Religious Institute

Secular Coalition for America

Senior Executives Association (SEA)

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)

T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Association

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Volunteers of America

WasteWater Education Inc. 501(c)3

Women of Reform Judaism

You can access the letter in pdf format by clicking here.

Yasmine Taeb

  • Legislative Representative for Human Rights and Civil Liberties

Yasmine directs FCNL’s work on a number of human rights and civil liberties issues, including lobbying for increased resettlement of Syrian refugees, more transparency and oversight of the U.S. lethal drones program, calling for the closure of Guantanamo, and for the repeal of the 2001 AUMF, among other issues.