After a months-long fight, we have good news: The final tax bill that the House and Senate will vote on next week will NOT contain language to repeal the Johnson Amendment. A big thank you to all of you who emailed and called your members of Congress and educated your friends and family about this issue. You are the ones who won this fight.
The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the current tax code that ensures all tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, do not endorse candidates. Tax-exempt organizations can all speak out on social and political issues, they just can’t take sides in partisan elections.
Americans don't want houses of worship to become enmeshed in partisan politics.
This makes sense. Tax-exempt status is provided to nonprofits because they do charitable work, and electoral politics is not charitable work. But the Johnson Amendment also protects the integrity and independence of our charitable nonprofits and houses of worship. No one wants our charities and houses of worship to be torn apart by partisan campaign politics.
On the campaign trail, Donald J. Trump vowed to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.” And in March, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) promised to repeal the Johnson Amendment in his tax bill. All the while, Americans United continued our decades-long fight to protect the current law. We spent countless hours educating members of Congress and the public as well as organizing faith leaders and supporters.
Through our Faith Voices project, 4,300 faith leaders stood up and spoke out in favor of keeping the Johnson Amendment. And more than 10,000 of our activists urged Congress to protect the current law through calls, emails and petitions. Many of our faith leaders and supporters around the country also wrote op-eds and held in-district meetings with their members of Congress. We could not have won this fight without you.
As efforts to pass a tax bill played out, the Senate and House versions were at odds: the House bill contained language to essentially repeal the Johnson Amendment, but the Senate bill was silent on the issue. The two chambers of Congress have been working to find agreement on what the final bill will look like and will vote on the bill next week.
Late last night, the office of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) confirmed that the Johnson Amendment language will not be in the final bill.
This is a huge win, and we should take a moment to celebrate. But then we have to get back to fighting to protect the Johnson Amendment. After Congress passes (or maybe does not pass) the tax bill, it will move on to spending bills. And the House has been pushing to weaken the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to enforce the Johnson Amendment through its spending bills. We will continue to watch for that and will let you know when you need to speak out again.