December 23, 2018

GOP House Leadership Pushes to Gut Johnson Amendment


Photo by Universal Pops, Flickr, Creative Commons

The Johnson Amendment has broad public support.


By Liz Hayes
Assistant Director of Communications
Americans United for Separation of Church and State


The Republican leadership in the lame-duck Congress is charging ahead with a foolhardy plan to use the tax bill 2.0 to gut the Johnson Amendment, the provision of federal law that protects the integrity of our nonprofits, including houses of worship, by ensuring they don’t endorse or oppose political candidates.

Clearer heads tried to intercede last night when the tax bill was considered by the House Rules Committee: Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), a longtime defender of the Johnson Amendment and church-state separation, introduced an amendment to the tax bill to strip out the harmful language. His proposal was co-sponsored by Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Brian Higgins (N.Y.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

When fighting a similar battle in last year’s tax bill, Lewis explained why protecting the Johnson Amendment is so important: “Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are houses of worship. Let us keep them that way and not let politics get in the way. Let us keep a separation of church and State. Keep that wall solid and strong.”

Unfortunately, the Rules Committee will not allow the full House to vote on Lewis’ amendment, meaning the tax bill with the harmful Johnson Amendment language intact proceeds to the House floor today for debate and a possible vote. That’s why it’s critical that you contact your representative now and urge them to oppose Section 507 of the tax bill, which would gut the Johnson Amendment.

Americans United led more than 100 organizations in writing to members of the House in the past week, urging them to protect the Johnson Amendment and oppose any language in the tax bill that would undermine it.

The Johnson Amendment has broad public support: Polls repeatedly have shown that the vast majority of Americans – including Republicans and evangelical Christians – don’t want the missions of houses of worship and charities corrupted or their members divided by partisan campaign politics.

In addition, more than 4,500 faith leaders5,800 nonprofits and 100 religious organizations have spoken out in support of its protections since President Donald Trump took office and threatened to “get rid of and totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment last year.

But Trump and a handful of politicians are ignoring the will of the people and catering to the agenda of Religious Right figureheads, who want to boost their own political power. They also tried to sneak in language undermining the law in a government-funding bill needed to prevent a government shutdown.

Please take a quick moment now to contact your representative and let them know you don’t want America’s charities and houses of worship embroiled in partisan campaign politics.


Originally published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 12.20.2018.

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