For Immediate Release
July 13, 2017
Media contact: Cherilyn Crowe / ccrowe@BJConline.org / Cell: 202-670-5877 / Office: 202-544-4226
Approval of Section 116 of the 2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill gives green light for candidates to pressure churches for endorsements
WASHINGTON –Tonight, the House Appropriations Committee voted to keep language in a funding bill that undermines the protections of the “Johnson Amendment” for houses of worship and denominations. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, offered an amendment to remove Section 116, but it was defeated 24-28.
The following statement is from Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty:
“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.
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. 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.”
The Baptist Joint Committee provided letter testimony to the House Appropriations Committee yesterday, outlining its opposition to Section 116. “Essentially blocking IRS enforcement of this provision with regard to houses of worship would expose churches to political pressure to endorse candidates,” Tyler said.
The BJC also joined 107 faith and other nonprofit organizations asking the committee to oppose the provision.
Based in Washington, D.C., the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is an 81-year-old religiously based organization working to defend religious freedom for all people and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition.