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. Over the years there have been rumblings about repealing the so-called Johnson Amendment and the likelihood of repeal has been substantially increased by Donald Trump’s presidential election victory.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., introduced legislation in September to repeal the “harmful provisions” of the Johnson Amendment. According to Jarred Rego, Rep. Lamborn’s Communications Director, the Johnson Amendment has restricted free speech of religious entities and has been used by the IRS to scare organizations into silence on issues of public conscience and morality.
“Restoring the free speech rights of religious entities and allowing them to determine the appropriate content of their sermons and teachings and communications to their congregations and to the public is very important,” Rego said.
However, some feel that repealing the Johnson Amendment would damage the integrity of political campaigning and eliminate whatever remains of campaign finance reform.
We feel that repealing the Johnson Amendment would 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, including endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Charities and churches simply should not have it both ways. What do you think?