Written by Don Byrd
[UPDATE 12/5/2017: The Senate passed a tax bill 51-49 without including the House’s changes to the Johnson Amendment. The differences with the House bill will be negotiated in a conference committee.]
[UPDATE 11/16/17: The House passed the tax bill, 227-205, including the troubling changes to the Johnson Amendment.]
Unlike the House version, the tax bill proposal released by Senate Republicans last week does not touch a key provision in the law, the Johnson Amendment, which protects houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations from politicization. The Nonprofit Times reports the Johnson Amendment is left “intact” in the initial Senate release.
As I posted last week, a troubling section in the House bill that passed the Ways and Means Committee would end the ban on tax-deductible political endorsements, a move that would encourage campaigns and political donors to exploit churches and other nonprofit organizations for political purposes. The BJC’s Amanda Tyler has said “the impact of this change on our religious communities…may be seismic.”
Importantly, both the Senate and House bills remain in flux. The House is reportedly set to vote Thursday. Meanwhile Senate Republicans continue to make changes to their proposal, which is being written in the Finance Committee. If both chambers pass a tax measure, the differences would presumably be worked out in a conference committee made up of Senators and Representatives before returning to both the House and the Senate for a final vote.
More than 100 religious organizations, including the BJC, and 4,200+ faith leaders have spoken out in support of the Johnson Amendment. For more on this issue and why the Johnson Amendment is good for religious liberty, see the BJC’s resource page.