The Johnson Amendment is What Stops the Republicans from Using Churches as ATMs


Guess what the Republicans are trying to get rid of next? The Johnson Amendment.

The Johnson Amendment is part of the tax code that disallows public charities, including churches, from formally endorsing a political candidate or supporting/opposing candidates with political contributions.

The current thinking is that the Republicans want to turn evangelical churches into another fundraising arm of their party. Once churches are allowed to endorse candidates and give money to them, how can they be stopped?


Trump has openly said he wants to get rid of the Johnson Amendment and the Republicans tried to knock it down in their big Tax Scam bill at the end of 2017. But it was ultimately left off the final bill. Each time a new round of budget appropriations bills come up, the Republicans try to slip in a repeal of the Johnson Amendment.

So guess what’s happening this week as the Republicans try to keep the government open (despite Trump saying he’d “be proud to shut it down”)? You got it–Kevin Brady, the current Republican chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, added in a repeal of the Johnson Amendment in the year-end tax legislation.

Here’s the thing I don’t quite get. Yes, if the Johnson Amendment were rescinded officially by an act of Congress, surely we would see tons of money flowing through evangelical churches to the Republican party. But what about other kinds of churches? Do the Republicans not get that that means that African-American churches, synagogues, and mosques would also be able to do the same thing?

And it doesn’t stop with churches. The Johnson Amendment applies to ALL charitable nonprofit organizations. Getting rid of it means the barrier goes away for universities, hospitals, museums, food banks, foundations, social service nonprofits, you name it. Do the Republicans want all of those organizations to endorse candidates and start sending money their way?

What about the nonprofits–what do they want? A majority of churches and a large majority of nonprofits do NOT want the Johnson Amendment to go away. In fact, in the lead up to the Tax Scam bill, when the amendment was on the chopping block, 4,000 faith leaders from every state and a whopping 4,500 nonprofits signed letters to Congress urging them to keep the amendment in place.

What you can do: There is enormous pressure from these nonprofits to keep the Johnson Amendment in place, but it is always a good idea to call your Representative directly to let them know you don’t want the Johnson Amendment to get repealed through the year-legislation. Find the contact info for your current Representative HERE.

Final Note: For more in-depth reading on the topic, I recommend Repealing the Johnson Amendment: legal and ecclesiological problems 

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