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?
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.
President Donald J. Trump had quite a week as more scandals involving Russia, his family and his campaign unfolded. But that didn’t stop him from finding time to talk to Religious Right leaders and do a news interview with Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network. All the while, his administration and friends in Congress were taking steps to implement the campaign promises he made to allow churches to endorse candidates and to allow religious freedom laws to be used to discriminate.
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cripple the IRS’ ability to enforce the Johnson Amendment – the law that ensures tax-exempt nonprofits, including houses of worship, cannot endorse or oppose candidates.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued the following statement today as the House Appropriations Committee narrowly voted down (24-28) an amendment with bipartisan support from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Texas) that would have protected the Johnson Amendment: