Written by Don Byrd
Today, 145 organizations — including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty — sent a letter to the House and Senate appropriators urging lawmakers not to allow language that would weaken the Johnson Amendment, which protects houses of worship and other nonprofit organizations from politicization, to be included in funding legislation currently being negotiated in Congress.
In particular, the letter warns that language previously included (Section 116) in an earlier funding bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee “would allow politicians and others seeking political power to pressure churches for endorsements, dividing congregations, and opening them up to the flow of secret money.”
The Baptist Joint Committee has been a national leader on this issue, explaining why the current law barring houses of worship from engaging in electoral campaigning is good for both the church and our political process. BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler issued the following statement today:
Houses of worship and nonprofits serve their communities, and they don’t want to be partisan cheerleaders who can bankroll campaigns.
Thousands of faith leaders and nonprofits continue to tell Congress that they want to keep the Johnson Amendment’s protections that have been in place for decades. Undermining it would expose houses of worship and all 501(c)(3) organizations to pressure from candidates seeking endorsements and would fundamentally change their character.
As blog readers know, 2017 saw a lot of activity surrounding the Johnson Amendment. The BJC was one of more than 100 religious groups that urged Congress not to weaken the Johnson Amendment in April of 2017 (visit the BJC’s Community Not Candidates page), more than 4,000 faith leaders from all 50 states urged Congress to keep the protections of the Johnson Amendment in August, and more than 5,000 nonprofits have asked Congress to keep the current law. The final tax bill signed in December 2017 left the Johnson Amendment intact, but more threats to it are expected throughout this year. Stay tuned.