The threat of legislation to politicize charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations remains very much alive as politicians and advocacy groups attempt to increase pressure to tamper with the Johnson Amendment.
Last week, Vice President Pence reiterated to a Focus on the Family convention that the Trump Administration remains committed to repealing the Johnson Amendment, the 53-year-old tax law that protects 501(c)(3) organizations from demands by politicians, operatives, and donors for endorsement of candidates or diversion of assets to political campaigns. Separately, a group of 47 organizations submitted a letter to Republican leaders calling on them “to prioritize hearings and votes on” the bills that would weaken the Johnson Amendment.
Signers included advocacy organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council, but not a single religious denomination. To date, churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship have come out in opposition to weakening the protections of nonpartisanship, as shown by the letter by 99 religious and denominations organizations that “strongly oppose any effort to weaken or eliminate protections that prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing political candidates.”
For more than 60 years, an important provision in the federal tax code has successfully protected charitable nonprofits, religious congregations, and foundations from being hounded by politicians, political operatives, and paid political consultants seeking political endorsements, financial contributions, and more. That provision is being threatened by the President, who recently vowed to “get rid of and totally destroy” the protection, and legislation in Congress seeking to completely repeal or substantially weaken it. Although couched as attempts to promote religious freedom and free speech, the legislative proposals would have the effect of politicizing and thereby erasing the public’s high trust in charities, houses of worship, and foundations to benefit politicians and paid political consultants.
Where We Stand
“The National Council of Nonprofits has long held that the public’s overall trust in the sector would diminish and thus limit the effectiveness of the nonprofit community if individual 501(c)(3) organizations came to be regarded as Democratic charities or Republican charities instead of the nonpartisan problem solvers that they are.”
Public Policy Agenda for 2017
The National Council of Nonprofits has consistently expressed our position in favor of “preserving the integrity of charitable nonprofits by supporting the tax-law ban on electioneering and partisan political activities.”
Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship
A broad, nationwide coalition of 501(c)(3) organizations, made up of charitable nonprofits, including religious institutions and foundations, delivered a clear message to Congress on April 5: maintain the current law that protects nonprofits organizations from being hounded for partisan political contributions and endorsements. The Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship, signed by nearly 4,500 organizations from every state and every segment of the charitable and foundation communities, makes a strong statement in support of nonpartisanship and urges those who have vowed to repeal or weaken this vital protection to leave existing law in place for nonprofit organizations and the people they serve. See News Release.
Individuals can support nonpartisanship and help defeat efforts in Congress to repeal or weaken current protections in the law (known as the “Johnson Amendment”) by forwarding the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship to their U.S. Senators and Representatives. Individuals and organizations are invited to spread the word on social media as well. (Sample Tweet: #Nonprofits are effective because they focus on #CommunityNotCandidates. Maintain #JohnsonAmendment https://www.givevoice.org/sites/default/files/community-letter-in-support-of-nonpartisanship.pdf)