Chris Phan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Chris Phan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The present US administration wants to defang the Johnson Amendment.

Hiding behind the din of Obamacare repeal, The U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted during the third week of July to keep the language in a new proposed funding bill. The language comes in the form of a proviso made specially to take the sting out of the colloquially named Johnson Amendment, a particular section of the tax code which forbids all institutionalized faith groups like churches along with other tax-exempt non-profits from openly endorsing their choice of political candidates.

If the bill is to be passed in its present wording, it will effectively stymie all attempts by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to muster any action against those churches which break the law by engaging themselves in any kind of explicit political action. If anything is to be done, the IRS will have to endure a waiting period of 90 days. Agents concerned with the case will compulsorily have to notify a minimum of two congressional committees. They also must get a sign to go ahead from the IRS head. Any non-profit, however, lacking a faith affiliation, would continue to be beholden to the amendment.

The term in contention, “Johnson Amendment,” comes from Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States of America. As per the latter, all relevant organizations as listed under section 501(c)(3) are totally prohibited from indirectly or directly participating or intervening in any political campaign done on the behalf of any elective public office or candidate. Any contributions toward public statements stating the position, or political campaign funds, made on the organization's behalf in favor of any candidate or opposing any candidate running for public office expressly violates the imposed prohibition made against any political campaign activity.

The Johnson Amendment, in reality, does not prevent pastors from supporting political candidates in many ways. As Sam Rohrer of American Pastors Network admitted the church can be host to petition drives, and members of the congregation can talk politics. One thing they cannot do is “endorse or suggest recommending a vote for a candidate.” Additional things which limit them include the use of church funds or utilizing the resources for supporting a particular candidate.

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