Members of Congress will be returning home to their districts in August, and it’s a perfect time to remind them why the Johnson Amendment is so important.
This federal law for more than 60 years has protected the integrity of tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose political candidates. The Johnson Amendment protects charities and churches from being used as political tools. And it protects taxpayers, who should not be forced to subsidize the partisan election activities of these organizations.
Yet President Donald Trump and a few members of Congress and far-right religious leaders want to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment for their own political gain. Trump has repeatedly threatened to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment,” a promise he reiterated during a July 13 interview with TV preacher Pat Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
The same day, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cripple the IRS’ ability to enforce the Johnson Amendment. The House Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill includes an amendment that would make it incredibly difficult for the IRS to investigate churches that have violated the law. The committee narrowly voted down an amendment from U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would have stripped this harmful language from the bill.
The spending bill with the provision to weaken the Johnson Amendment next goes to the House floor. That’s why it’s crucial that members of Congress hear from you now about why the Johnson Amendment is so important.
It’s a perfect time to remind members of Congress why the Johnson Amendment is so important.
Beginning the week of Aug. 21, Americans United is joining with our allies – including faith organizations and advocacy groups – to organize Hometown Congressional Visits. These visits give you an opportunity to gather like-minded people from your community and meet with your members of Congress. It’s a great way to educate them about the protections the Johnson Amendment offers and the broad public support the current law has.
We’ve created a toolkit with all the information you need to plan a visit with your representatives and senators — you can find it here.
There are other actions you can take as well: You can sign a petition urging Congress to protect the Johnson Amendment; you can encourage faith leaders to voice their support for the law; you can write a letter to the editor to make sure your community knows about the Johnson Amendment’s important protections; and you can share this information with your friends and family and encourage them to take action.
Now more than ever, we need your help to let your members of Congress know that the Johnson Amendment protects the right of houses of worship and other tax-exempt organizations to speak out about political and social issues, while at the same time ensuring they are not used as partisan political tools.
To learn more about the Johnson Amendment and AU’s decades-long fight to protect it, visit Project Fair Play.