H.R. 1 Stirs Up Bad Mix of Churches and Politics
Washington, D.C., November 2 – Today U.S. Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” A portion of this legislation addresses the Johnson Amendment. Alliance for Justice opposes this legislation.
Under current federal tax law, the Johnson Amendment prohibits all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, including religious organizations, from participating or intervening in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.
Under the proposed legislation, there is an exception to allow Churches, but not other 501(c)(3) organizations, to speak out for or against political candidates during any presentation made during a religious service. This political speech must be made in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities and must not cost the organization more than de minimis incremental expenses. However, the legislation neither provides a standard for what is considered an organization’s regular and customary activities, nor a definition or percentage for what is a de minimis incremental expense.
“This is one more example of Republicans in Congress trying to increase the political power of churches in our national debates,” said Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice. “The fact is, most Americans are against allowing houses of worship to endorse or oppose candidates for office. Alliance for Justice opposes H.R. 1.”
A recent study by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that a full 71 percent of Americans oppose allowing churches and places of worship to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status.