The U.S. House recently passed a tax bill containing a provision that would allow tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, to endorse candidates.
If adopted, it would undermine the integrity and autonomy of houses of worship and change the nature of charitable nonprofits as we know them.
The existing tax code contains language, often referred to as the Johnson Amendment, that allows 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations to speak out on political issues, but prohibits them from endorsing candidates. It also ensures the tax exemption — a subsidy from the government — is used for charitable work and not partisan activity.
By adopting the provision in the tax bill, our organizations would be transformed from charitable organizations to political campaign organizations. I don’t want donors pressuring my church for endorsements and I don’t want to tell my congregants who they should or should not vote for.
Lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should know that members of the faith community and the larger nonprofit community stand in strong support of the Johnson Amendment. In fact, I recently joined more than 4,300 other faith leaders in a letter that urges Congress to protect the current law.
We don’t want politicians meddling in our houses of worship.
The Rev. D. Anthony Everette
Pastor, Wesley United Methodist Church