Imagine if the local community shelter you support sent you a newsletter telling you who to vote for in an upcoming election. It would be divisive and threaten the organization’s very mission.
Twenty-five years ago today, Sept. 22, 1992, the governing body of Americans United voted to hire a fellow named Barry W. Lynn to be the new executive director of Americans United.
A lawyer and United Church of Christ minister, Barry hit the ground running. One of the things he did best was irritate the Religious Right groups that hate church-state separation – a proud legacy he continues to this day. Leaders of these groups were flummoxed. How is it that a Christian minister had emerged as their most articulate opponent?
The House of Representatives, just back from its August recess, is poised to pass a major spending bill. Tucked within that bill is Section 116, a provision that would make it nearly impossible for the Internal Revenue Service to investigate tax-exempt houses of worship that have endorsed or opposed political candidates in violation of the Johnson Amendment. The fate of that provision could be decided today.
Attacks continued over the summer on the Johnson Amendment, the federal law that for more than 60 years has ensured that tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, do not endorse or oppose political candidates.
President Donald J. Trump, backed by some members of Congress and Religious Right leaders, is pushing to repeal or weaken the provision. Trump has repeatedly vowed 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.
On May 4, President Donald Trump signed a “religious liberty” executive order that, he boasted, would free up houses of worship to endorse political candidates.
Last week, more than 4,000 faith leaders nationwide did their part to urge Congress not to weaken or repeal the Johnson Amendment, the federal law that protects the integrity of nonprofit organizations – including houses of worship – by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose political candidates.
Now it’s your turn.
(Washington, DC) -- More than 4,000 faith leaders from all 50 states are calling on Congress to keep the Johnson Amendment, the part of the tax code that protects houses of worship and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations from being pressured by politicians for endorsements. The law, which has broad support, has been under attack by President Donald Trump and a handful of others.
Today more than 4,000 faith leaders from a diverse background of religious traditions and from all 50 states and the District of Columbia came together to support the Johnson Amendment. They signed a letter, which was delivered this morning, calling on members of Congress to resist any attempts to undermine current law.
The assaults on religious freedom and church-state separation by the Trump/Pence administration have fired up a base of already passionate Americans United supporters, and they are ready to fight back. This past weekend, I joined AU’s Field team, chapter leaders and supporters from North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee for a two-day training on grassroots organizing.
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.