Written by Don Byrd
Back in July, the House Appropriations Committee rejected amendments to the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill that would have kept in place key protections in the law for houses of worship. Section 116 of the bill in its current state includes provisions that would make it extremely difficult for the IRS to enforce the so-called Johnson Amendment, the ban on electoral campaigning by tax-exempt churches.
The Johnson Amendment keeps houses of worship from becoming politicized around elections for office, and safeguards the integrity of our campaign finance system. That’s why 4,000+ faith leaders signed a letter urging Congress to leave it in place and to reject efforts to undermine its effectiveness. (You can visit faith-voices.org now to add your name to the letter).
Now the House Rules Committee is deciding which amendments to the FSGG funding bill will be heard by the entire House of Representatives. Americans United offers a good explainer of the process as it could relate to Section 116:
Three amendments would remove Section 116 from the bill. Wasserman Schultz and Lee reintroduced their amendment to strike the language from the bill. U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who led the floor fight to defend the Johnson Amendment against an effort by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) to repeal it in 2002, has also offered an amendment to strip the language. And, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) has submitted an amendment to remove the provision as well.
The full House should be heard on this important issue, which impacts every congregation. Given the chance, Congress should reject this and any attempt to weaken the Johnson Amendment, which helps protect houses of worship from becoming battlegrounds of electoral politics.
For more on this issue, see the Baptist Joint Committee’s “Community Not Candidates” resource page.