Trump Urged by Religious & Secular Groups to Preserve Church & Charity Nonpartisanship

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  • David Vance
86 Groups Stress Johnson Amendment Should Not Be Repealed or Altered

Today, 86 religious and secular groups urged President Donald Trump and members of Congress to preserve the Johnson Amendment to keep partisan politics out of 501(c)(3) organizations. The letter emphasized that for more than 60 years the tax code provision has protected the integrity and autonomy of religious and charitable sectors and safeguarded the boundary separating church and state.  

“Big political donors are already pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into our elections anonymously through other types of tax-exempt organizations. Doing away with the Johnson Amendment would only exacerbate the problem of secret political giving and undermine public trust and faith in religious organizations and charities,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause vice president for Policy and Litigation. “To allow big-money special interest to essentially launder political spending through charities and churches would be a grave disservice to the institutions themselves and to the nation as a whole.”

The Johnson Amendment recently has gained national attention after Trump vowed at the National Prayer Breakfast in February to “totally destroy” the law. The provision protects charities and religious organizations from political meddling and protects the separation of church and state. Without it, Americans could not be sure their charitable donations were going solely to a charitable mission, and religious organizations could become a funnel for tax-deductible secret spending in elections.

“Without this rule, nonpartisan charities and places of worship would be open to manipulation for political ends,” the letter said. “Up to now, charities and religious organizations have been insulated from electioneering, and instead have been committed to doing good work, like alleviating poverty, ministering to the spirit, curing disease, and addressing other basic human and social needs. Changing the law jeopardizes the public’s confidence that their charitable contributions would be used for these universally valued purposes rather than mere partisan politics.”

The letter concludes, “Politicizing the charitable sector harms our communities and our relationship with the public. We urge you to reject any attempt to remove the campaign intervention ban which protects our charitable and religious sectors from being used for political purposes.”

To read the full letter, click here.