Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed disappointment over a vote by a House committee on a provision in the new tax bill that threatens to draw America’s houses of worship into partisan politics.
A year ago, when Donald Trump and Mike Pence were elected to the highest offices in the land, Americans United warned of the many threats this administration posed to church-state separation. We promised that if any of those threats came to fruition, we would be ready to fight back and defend religious freedom.
Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee began preliminary discussion over the new tax bill, which includes language that severely weakens the Johnson Amendment, a provision of the tax code that protects the integrity of tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose candidates.
The tax bill, if passed as is, would allow churches – but not other tax-exempt organizations – to endorse political candidates if the endorsement happens during “religious services and gatherings.”
Tomorrow is election day in some parts of the country. Most political analysts are keeping a close eye on Virginia’s gubernatorial race, seeing it as a mini-referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.
But there are other interesting races as well. One of them is taking place in Douglas County, Colo., where a school board election has attracted national interest.
The vast majority of Americans support the Johnson Amendment – the provision in the tax code that ensures tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, do not endorse or oppose political candidates. But the leadership of the House of Representatives ignored the American people today when they released a tax-reform package that includes language that exempts houses of worship from the law.
The leadership of the House of Representatives today released a tax-reform package that includes language greatly weakening the Johnson Amendment – the provision in the tax code that ensures tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, do not endorse or oppose political candidates.
Today’s tax-reform proposal would change the law so that churches – but not other nonprofits – could endorse candidates seeking office.
Maggie Garrett, legislative director of Americans United, released this statement in response: