Since 1954, churches and charities have been prohibited from engaging in political speech, including the ability to endorse or oppose candidates for public office.
Then-Senator Lyndon Johnson of Texas proposed this Amendment to Internal Revenue Code §501(c)(3) in 1954 which then became law and is known as the Johnson Amendment. Over the years there have been rumblings that the Johnson Amendment should be repealed, including support from then-candidate Donald Trump on the campaign trail.
According to The Nation, a leaked draft of an executive order published online on February 1, 2017, entitled “Establishing a Government-wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom” would prohibit the IRS from penalizing, denying exempt status or disallowing charitable tax deductions if a religious organization or individual speaks out on moral or political issues.
This would include, but not be limited to, same-sex marriage or abortion. The draft order would direct the Department of Justice to protect religious freedom and would prohibit interference in charity fundraising by outspoken charities or churches.
We have felt, and continue to feel, that repealing the Johnson Amendment will be a step in the wrong direction insofar as charities and churches should not be able to enjoy tax-exempt status and be able to speak freely about political issues. Charities and churches simply should not have it both ways. What do you think?