By Amanda Tyler and Tim Delaney, Published by The Hill
Below is an excerpt. The full op-ed is available at TheHill.com
Buried deep in the back of the proposed 429-page tax bill (on page 427, to be precise) is a treacherous scheme to misuse houses of worship as tools for political campaigns that would further divide our country and harm faith communities.
Section 5201 aims to gut a law signed by President Eisenhower (sometimes called the “Johnson Amendment”) that has protected charitable nonprofits, houses of worship and private foundations from the toxic divisiveness of partisan politics. That law has proven successful for more than six decades, allowing our communities to come together without party labels, and preserving the independence of our institutions. When political operatives hit up such organizations for contributions or endorsements, existing law provides a powerful shield allowing this answer: “No, and stop hounding us because the law says we can’t.”
The law has worked well, and a variety of groups have urged Congress to keep it. More than 4,200 religious leaders recently signed a letter to Congress actively opposing any changes to existing law, as did more than 100 religious and denominational organizations. More than 5,500 charitable nonprofits, houses of worship and foundations from all 50 states and D.C. signed a separate letter to Congress actively opposing any changes, as did the organization of state law enforcement officials who oversee and regulate 501(c)(3) organizations.
Tim Delaney is president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, the nation’s largest network of charitable nonprofits.
Amanda Tyler is executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which champions the principle that religion must be freely exercised, neither advanced nor inhibited by government.