Written by Don Byrd

The Washington Post reports on a provision in the new Congressional spending bill that would de-fund any investigation into churches for violating the so-called Johnson Amendment. That is the IRS regulation prohibiting 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations (including from houses of worship) from engaging in electoral politics for or against a candidate for office. 

As a candidate, President Trump vowed to “destroy” the law, a goal he reiterated last month, despite its role in protecting churches from politicization by campaigns and political parties. While de-funding it would not technically repeal it, it would effectively bar the IRS from conducting such inquiries.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s WaPo report quotes Charles Haynes explaining the provision’s potential impact.

The language in the bill is clearly an effort to gut the Johnson Amendment as applied to churches, said Charles Haynes, a religious freedom expert at the Newseum.

“At the very least, this provision puts a further chilling effect on any attempts by IRS staff to enforce the Johnson Amendment with respect to pulpit speech — the part of the amendment that conservative churches have most opposed,” Haynes said. “At its worst, the provision keeps IRS staff from doing its job to prevent charitable donations to flow to political campaigns.”

The Baptist Joint Committee has previously signed a letter along with 98 other religious liberty advocates opposing any effort to repeal the Johnson Amendment. For more on this issue, read BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler’s column, “Politicize our charities and churches? No thanks” and read Tyler’s testimony before a House Subcommittee on this issue.

To make your voice heard, visit faith-voices.org and add your name to a letter urging Congress not to abandon this key protection against the politicization of our houses of worship.