By Bob Allen // Baptist News Global

This is an abbreviated version of the story. The full article is available at Baptist News Global’s website

More than 1,000 Baptist leaders signed an open letter delivered to Congress Aug. 16 opposing all efforts to weaken or repeal a section of the tax code that prevents tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

In all 4,000 religious leaders signed the letter defending the “Johnson Amendment” — named after President Lyndon Johnson, who introduced the measure when he was a senator from Texas in 1954 — saying the current law protects houses of worship from becoming centers of partisan politics.

“We have heard an outcry from faith leaders across the country about changing the tax law to encourage churches to issue campaign endorsements,” said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and an organizer of Faith Voices, a collective of interfaith religious groups opposed to any repeal or weakening of the Johnson Amendment.

Tyler encouraged other clergy and leaders to join the 4,000 “early adopters” in an ongoing effort to send a strong message to Congress.

Tyler said groups including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Franciscan Action Network and Interfaith Alliance all believe lifting the electioneering ban would divide communities of faith and distract from their religious mission.

They joined together to create Faith Voices as a platform to collectively address lawmakers about their concern that encouraging churches to take sides in campaigns will result in houses of worship becoming cogs in the political machine.

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