From BJC Staff Reports
More than 4,000 faith leaders from all 50 states are calling on Congress to keep the “Johnson Amendment,” the part of the tax code that protects houses of worship and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations from being pressured by politicians for endorsements. The law, which has broad support, has been attacked by some in Washington.
The faith leaders — spanning all major religions — signed a letter explaining how the current law ensures their continued independent voice, protecting houses of worship from becoming centers of partisan politics or cogs in the political machine.
More than 1,000 Baptists signed the letter, which was organized by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, along with several religious groups, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Franciscan Action Network and Interfaith Alliance.
“We have heard an outcry from faith leaders across the country about changing the tax law to encourage churches to issue campaign endorsements,” said BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler. “They are concerned that weakening the ‘Johnson Amendment’ would divide their communities and distract from their mission. In response, we worked with other groups to create this platform for leaders to lift their individual voices.”
This letter, delivered to Congress August 16, joins a similar effort from 99 national and state religious groups in April that asked Congress to keep the current law, as well as a letter from more than 5,000 nonprofit organizations also calling on lawmakers to leave the Johnson Amendment intact.
“Changing the law to repeal or weaken the ‘Johnson Amendment’ — the section of the tax code that prevents tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates — would harm houses of worship, which are not identified or divided by partisan lines,” the letter states. “Particularly in today’s political climate, engaging in partisan politics and issuing endorsements would be highly divisive and have a detrimental impact on congregational unity and civil discourse.”
It’s not too late to join the movement and sign the letter. “This effort is ongoing, and I encourage clergy and lay leaders to join these 4,000 early adopters in sending a strong message to Congress,” Tyler said.
Sign your name at Faith-Voices.org, and read what many Baptist signers had to say at BJConline.org/Faith-Voices. The letter is also available in Spanish on the website at Faith-Voices.org/espanol.