The Johnson Amendment, Dark Money, and the Trump Tax Plan

The Johnson Amendment, Dark Money, and the Trump Tax Plan

For Immediate Release
Contact: Amy Couch, 202-238-9088,

(Washington, D.C., December 12, 2017)— The Johnson Amendment is under attack and this matters for three important reasons.

The Johnson Amendment currently prohibits religious organizations and other 501(c)(3) orgs from directly or indirectly participating in any political campaigns on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. These organizations are also prohibited from making contributions to political campaigns for any candidate for public office.

“Repealing the Johnson Amendment would turn over the reigns of government to the highest bidder and end the little campaign finance transparency we have,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

If the Johnson Amendment is repealed, political donations could be made to churches, which would eventually be given to candidates or causes and these would be tax-deductible unlike other forms of political giving. Currently, contributions to super PACs and to candidates are not tax-deductible.

Churches and other houses of worship would be able to endorse candidates from the pulpit and tie their endorsements to religious imperatives in order to sway their parishioners.

And most importantly, political donations to churches would be anonymous, unlike most other forms of political giving. Because churches are exempt from tax reporting requirements, political spending would be impossible to track. This would create campaign funding streams of unaccountable dark money.

“While we don’t know what the final rules on Trump’s proposed tax legislation will be,” said Roy Speckhardt, “we do know the repeals currently in the House bill would allow churches to raise tax-free money for politicians, leaving us, the U.S. taxpayers, to pay the bill.”


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.