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Heads Up: Attempt to repeal the Johnson Amendment


Howl

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What is the Johnson Amendment?  The Johnson Amendment (passed in 1954)  is named after its sponsor, then Sen. Lyndon Johnson.    NPR to the rescue, with an article titled  The Johnson Amendment In 5 Questions And Answers.  Note the date:  February 3, 2017.  

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In his address to the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, President Trump vowed to "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution."

Under terms of the 1954 legislation (named for its principal sponsor, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson), churches and other nonprofit organizations that are exempt from taxation "are absolutely prohibited 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," according to the IRS website.

Organizations claiming tax-exempt status cannot collect contributions on behalf of political campaigns or make any statement for or against a particular candidate. Clergy are not allowed to endorse candidates from the pulpit. (Despite Trump's promise to "totally destroy" the amendment, the president does not have the authority to do so on his own. Only Congress can repeal a law, in this case an amendment to the tax code.)

Now that tax "reform" is in the sights of Congress, so is dismantling the Johnson Amendment, meaning churches could become big, big, BIG money players in the political process.  Ironically, in a 2016 poll, black Protestants were most likely to have heard a pastor endorse a candidate (Hillary Clinton) from the pulpit.  However, white evangelicals have been pushing hard for a repeal for awhile and now are really cranked up about the possibility that it will be undone. 

Just google any combination of "tax code reform + repeal of Johnson Amendment" for more information. 

Frankly, we should all be shitting bricks over this and I hope the attempt gets massive blow back. 

 

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I don't know much about this subject, but it looks like the IRS is pretty lax in enforcing this amendment, so I assume that most churches self-police.   Would the notion that all churches would have their tax exempt status eliminated be an effective way to push back on this threat to repeal?  I foresee even more corruption if there are absolutely no restraints on (tax exempt) churches throwing money into politics.

Off to get more educated...     :confusion-scratchheadyellow:

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5. Have any churches landed in trouble for violating the Johnson Amendment?

Not really.

Despite the controversy surrounding the Johnson Amendment, the Internal Revenue Service has not been especially active in enforcing it. Since 2008, the Alliance Defending Freedom has organized "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," encouraging pastors to give explicitly political sermons in defiance of the law.

The IRS, however, has rarely moved to take away a church's tax exemption. According to the alliance, as reported by the Washington Post, only one of more than 2,000 Christian clergy deliberately challenging the law since 2008 has been audited, and none has been punished.

 

 

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Yes, the IRS is beyond lax; they basically aren't enforcing the Johnson Amendment.  However, if the financial end of the amendment is dismantled, churches could start bundling $$$$$ and become major political players. 

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