Washington, DC — Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which contains a provision that severely weakens the Johnson Amendment. Passed by Congress in 1954, the Johnson Amendment prohibits all 501(c)3 nonprofits, including houses of worship, from endorsing political candidates. Section 5201 of the House tax reform bill would effectively repeal the Johnson Amendment by allowing tax-exempt churches and nonprofits to endorse political candidates.
Statement by Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America
“We are deeply disappointed that Members of Congress would vote to remove a common-sense safeguard to gain political points with the extreme religious right. For 63 years, the Johnson Amendment has helped protect the integrity of our elections, our nonprofits, and our secular government. While the original version of the House’s tax reform bill exclusively allowed houses of worship to endorse political candidates, Members of the House Ways and Means Committee amended the text to include secular nonprofits. This amendment was intended to make the bill appear equitable but it remains a fact that, unlike secular nonprofits, religious nonprofits are not required to file a 990 tax form which discloses sources of income and expenditures. This lack of financial transparency threatens to unleash a new wave of “dark money” into our elections, opening the gates for tax-deductible donations to flow through church coffers and into political campaigns.”
“As the Senate prepares to vote on their version of tax reform legislation, we urge them to listen to the voices of faith leaders, nonprofits, and voters, the overwhelming majority of whom support the Johnson Amendment. Contrary to the misinformation of the religious right, all nonprofits are already free to speak out on political issues. The repeal of the Johnson Amendment will turn nonprofits into political pawns and further politicize houses of worship. We will not stand by while the integrity of our political system and the efficacy of charitable organizations around the country is compromised for the benefit of religious fundamentalists who want to engage in partisan electioneering on the taxpayer’s dime.”
Communications Associate and Spokesman
[email protected], (845) 380-6201
The Secular Coalition for America is the nation’s premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations.