Two tax bills wended their way through Congress this week and their passage could have huge implications for church-state separation. Both the House and Senate bills are called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but they are very different from one another.
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.”
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.