By Ken Camp // The Baptist Standard

Below is an abbreviated version of the original article

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill that includes a provision weakening the Johnson Amendment—the law that bars churches and other nonprofit organizations from endorsing political candidates without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.

Advocates for separation of church and state, including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, insisted the committee’s July 13 action exposes churches to political pressure from candidates.

“In the name of protecting the church from the IRS and without any evidence of an overreaching bureaucracy, the appropriations committee acted today to expose the garden of the church to the woolly wilderness of partisan campaigning,” said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee soon after the July 13 committee action.

Committee rejects amendment

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., proposed an amendment that would have deleted the section of the funding bill that included the provision regarding enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. The committee rejected the amendment by a 24-28 vote.

“Gutting potential enforcement of the law gives candidates and campaign donors a green light to press churches for their endorsements and possibly their tax-deductible offerings, too,” Tyler said. “Vast majorities of clergy and churchgoers oppose endorsing candidates from their houses of worship, knowing it would divide their congregations and distract from their mission.” …

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