Located just two blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and across the street from the Hart Senate Office Building, BJC works closely with Congress in church–state matters.
Some of what we do makes the news; much of our impact, however, takes place behind the scenes. In any given legislative session, we may lead congressional briefings, meet directly with lawmakers and their staffs, analyze new legislation, testify at hearings or build broad advocacy coalitions to sustain religious liberty.
In countries around the world, laws that criminalize religious dissent stifle religious expression and undermine human rights. They are often used to silence religious minorities and punish political opponents, fostering religious intolerance, discrimination and violence. BJC supports H. Res. 512, a bipartisan resolution that calls for the State Department and the administration to prioritize the repeal of such laws in foreign policy.
Proposals to use public dollars for tuition or other expenses at private, often religious, schools pop up frequently in state and federal bills. BJC has long worked with a number of religious, public education, and civil liberties groups to oppose any kind of publicly funded voucher program. Simply put, religious teachings should be paid for by voluntary contributions, not through compulsory taxation. Vouchers violate the freedom of conscience of taxpayers, who have the right to insist that the government remain neutral in matters of faith. In addition, for any religious academy that might benefit financially, government funding comes with strings attached—regulations or pressures that could threaten the private school’s religious independence and purpose.
- Our Partner – The National Coalition for Public Education
- 5 ways public schools protect religious liberty for all (EthicsDaily column by Jennifer Hawks)
- School vouchers threaten religious autonomy (by Jennifer Hawks)
- Voucher debate reflects important lines to be drawn in protecting religious freedom (by Holly Hollman)
- Religious liberty in public schools (Printable PDF)
BJC was founded on the principle of religious liberty for all, including people of every faith and those who do not claim a religious tradition. That’s why we support The Freedom of Religion Act, re-introduced in Congress in January 2019. The legislation prohibits using immigrants’ religion (or lack thereof) as a reason to keep them out of the U.S. This project is one of many BJC undertakes to defend religious minorities.
BJC is a leading voice in fighting the current administration’s various attempts to repeal the “Johnson Amendment” — the provision in the tax code that prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from partisan campaigning. We believe this law is critical because it allows houses of worship and other religious charities to engage issues and carry out their missions without the political pressure and additional dangers that come with endorsing and opposing candidates, including turning their offering plates into political slush funds. More than 4,700 faith leaders, 100 denominational groups, and 5,500 charities agree. So far, our efforts have preserved the Johnson Amendment. But, the battle continues.
- Community Not Candidates
- Protecting the Johnson Amendment
- Faith Organization Letter Opposing Politicization of Houses of Worship (PDF)
- Charitable nonprofits in support of nonpartisonship
- Supporting the Johnson Amendment (PDF)
- Amanda Tyler’s Congressional testimony on the Johnson Amendment (PDF)
- Pastor Stephen Cook on supporting the Johnson Amendment (Podcast)
- NPR’s On Point: Amanda Tyler on the Johnson Amendment (radio program)
- “Trump vowed to destroy the Johnson Amendment. Thankfully, he has failed” (The Washington Post op-ed by Amanda Tyler and Rabbi David Saperstein)
It’s a well-known adage that government money comes with “strings attached.” It’s also a constitutional principle that government must not advance religion, and therefore cannot directly fund it. For example, when Congress offers disaster relief through FEMA, are churches eligible for those funds? BJC says no, taxpayers should not be forced to build — or rebuild — churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other houses of worship. Should a Christian nonprofit in South Carolina participate in a federally-funded foster-care program, even though it will only work with Protestant families? BJC says that’s crossing the line — government-funded services must be available to all regardless of religion. Delicate issues will continue to arise, and BJC supports the kinds of laws and regulations that protect religious liberty rights of beneficiaries while permitting the government to partner with faith-based organizations to meet its secular interests.
- New Executive Order Undercuts Key Protections (by Amanda Tyler)
- Natural disasters don’t justify government funding of faith-based organizations (by Holly Hollman)
- Protecting religious liberty and preventing discrimination in government-funded partnerships (by Holly Hollman)
- Trinity Lutheran Church: Decidedly narrow, deeply troubling (by Holly Hollman)