Written by Don Byrd
The long-awaited text of the omnibus spending bill was released Wednesday night and to the great relief of religious liberty advocates including the Baptist Joint Committee, it does not include language weakening the so-called “Johnson Amendment,” which protects nonprofits including houses of worship from politicization.
BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler released the following statement:
“Those who depend on houses of worship and community nonprofits can breathe a sigh of relief, as concerted efforts to weaken the longstanding law that keeps the 501(c)(3) sector free from partisan campaigning were rebuked yet again.
Some hoped they could slip a bad policy change into must-pass legislation, but advocates for keeping nonprofits nonpartisan spoke up and prevailed.”
President Trump and many lawmakers have made repealing or weakening the Johnson Amendment a top priority, despite widespread public opposition to the idea of introducing partisanship and political money into our congregations. So, it is to the great credit of advocates like the BJC, who spoke loudly on this issue (alongside organizations including the National Council of Nonprofits), and even more importantly the huge groundswell of grassroots support from people of faith — making phone calls, signing petitions and otherwise making their voices heard — for the principles the Johnson Amendment protects.
As Tim Delaney of the National Council of Nonprofits warns, however:
[W]e cannot afford to relax. Last year prominent politicians and well-funded lobbyists tried to gut the Johnson Amendment through an executive order and five separate bills. Their zeal last year suggests they likely will continue their push to hijack charitable goodwill for their own political ambitions while rewarding their supporters with charitable tax deductions for partisan donations. If that comes to pass, charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations will once again rise in force to defend this vital, longstanding law.
Indeed. Kudos to all who spoke out and led on this issue. The BJC will continue to monitor this misguided effort.