The bad news: At least one legislator wasted no time in re-introducing a bill that would roll back the so-called Johnson Amendment, which prohibits nonprofit organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.
It’s a new year and a new Congress, but a familiar piece of legislation already has darkened the door of the U.S. Capitol.
U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) wasted no time in resuming his efforts to roll back the prohibition on nonprofits endorsing or opposing political candidates. On Tuesday – the first day the 115th Congress was in session – Jones introduced H.R. 172 to “restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.”
When I heard that President-elect Donald Trump on Friday had nominated U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be attorney general, I immediately remembered something that happened in 1999.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said today that it will work vigorously to oppose any attempts by the administration of Donald J. Trump to undermine religious freedom in the United States.
When Americans United Faith Organizer Bill Mefford road-tripped to North Carolina recently to speak at churches for a series of workshops on religion and politics, he knew bridging the gap between faith leaders and church-state separation would be an opportunity.
“The heart of all justice work is relationships,” Mefford said, and indeed, building relationships became thematic throughout his Sept. 19-23 trip.
It seems in recent years that whenever churches break the federal law prohibiting houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) non-profits from endorsing or opposing candidates, the Internal Revenue Service treats those violations with a shrug. And with all the talk this election season about repealing that anti-politicking law, Americans United felt it necessary to ask the IRS what it plans to do going forward to enforce a law that is good for both democracy and faith.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) had a major ethics lapse recently when he advised clergy to break the law.
In an address to a group of pastors at the governor’s mansion, Bevin told them that even though the federal tax code prohibits houses of worship (and other 501(c)(3) organizations) from endorsing or opposing candidates for office, the Internal Revenue Service is just a “paper tiger” so there’s nothing to worry about.
A Texas church is upset that it had to pay more than $400,000 as part of a lawsuit challenging some partisan political activity it undertook several years ago.
In a recent letter to the El Paso Times, Bishop Tom Brown disclosed that his organization, Word of Life Church, paid former El Paso Mayor John Cook $418,750 after Brown led an allegedly unlawful effort to remove then-Mayor Cook and two other then-city officials from office because they helped pass an LGBTQ rights law.
Americans United in September mailed letters to 100,000 houses of worship nationwide, reminding religious leaders that it is a violation of federal law if they use church resources to endorse or oppose candidates for office this election season.
In the letter, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn explained what houses of worship can and can’t do when it comes to political activity.
By The Rev. Dr. Rollin O. Russell
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has been telling audiences for months now that he wants to abolish the federal law that says non-profit, tax-exempt organizations can’t engage in partisan political activity by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.