by Tom Strode
WASHINGTON (BP) — Members of Congress have introduced legislation to enable churches and other non-profit organizations to endorse candidates or otherwise participate in political campaigns without fear of penalties from the Internal Revenue Service.
The Free Speech Fairness Act — introduced Feb. 1, the day before President Trump reiterated his intent to eliminate the so-called Johnson Amendment — would free pastors, churches and other tax-exempt entities to intervene on behalf of or against candidates in an election campaign. The measure would still prohibit financial donations from such organizations to candidates or campaigns, a bill sponsor said.
The Johnson Amendment, named after then-Senator and future President Lyndon Johnson of Texas, altered the federal tax code in 1954 to bar 501(c)(3) organizations “from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
In a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday (Feb. 2), Trump pledged to “get rid of, and totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.” He made a similar promise during the election campaign, including in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in July.
The amendment, and the way it has been wielded by liberal organizations especially, has caused confusion for many churches and pastors regarding what freedoms they have to address elections or even issues and the public policies affecting them. CONTINUE READING