February 6, 2019

Dear Chairman Grassley and Chairman Neal:

Congratulations on your respective chairmanships of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee. As you lead your committees, we urge you to protect and maintain the Johnson Amendment, which is the longstanding tax law provision that safeguards the integrity and independence of our nation’s charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations by ensuring they do not endorse or oppose candidates for public office. The Johnson Amendment protects the right of these organizations to speak out about public policy and social issues while at the same time, ensuring they are not pressured by political candidates and campaigns to take a side in divisive partisan elections.

Under the current law, which has been in place for more than six decades, tax-exempt organizations have enjoyed and exercised robust free speech rights and can speak out on any issues that they see as important. They can engage in public debate, and even, with a few boundaries, lobby on specific legislation. Moreover, in the election arena, they can – on a nonpartisan basis – host candidate forums, hold voter registration drives, encourage people to vote, help transport people to the polls, and invite candidates to speak. They simply cannot endorse or oppose candidates for public office and maintain their special tax-exempt status.

Weakening or repealing the current law would allow politicians and others seeking political power to pressure churches and charities for endorsements, dividing congregations and communities, and open them up to the flow of secret money. Americans do not want our charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations to be torn apart by partisan campaign politics.

The vast majority of charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations support keeping the Johnson Amendment as is because it protects all of us from politicians’ and donors’ demands for partisan endorsements and from the diversion of charitable assets to campaign coffers. Indeed, opposition to the repeal or weakening of the Johnson Amendment is overwhelming: 106 religious and denominational organizations, more than 5,800 charitable nonprofit organizations, more than 4,600 faith leaders,  and state charities officials have all written to Congress to urge it to protect the Johnson Amendment.

Despite Americans’ strong support for the law, we have seen repeated attempts in the previous Congress to undermine the Johnson Amendment. In addition to standalone legislation introduced to fully repeal or severely weaken the Johnson Amendment, provisions to weaken the Johnson Amendment have been included in House versions of appropriations bills and tax packages. Yet, repealing the Johnson Amendment is not just bad policy; it would also come at a high cost to the American taxpayer. In fact, the Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that weakening the Johnson Amendment would cost the government $7.7 billion over ten years as donors shift their donations from political organizations to tax-exempt organizations.

As a new Congress begins, we urge you to uphold the Johnson Amendment and reject legislation that would compromise the integrity of our nation’s houses of worship and other charitable nonprofits.

FULL LIST OF OPEN LETTER SIGNERS

*Organizations listed for affiliation purposes only

  • ACCSES
  • African American Ministers In Action
  • African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
  • Alliance of Baptists
  • Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS)
  • American Alliance of Museums
  • American Association of University Women (AAUW)
  • American Atheists
  • American Baptist Churches, USA
  • American Baptist Home Mission Societies
  • American Conference of Cantors
  • American Council on Education
  • American Family Voices
  • American Humanist Association
  • American Jewish Committee (AJC)
  • American Society of Association Executives
  • Americans for the Arts
  • Americans for the Arts Action Fund
  • Americans United for Separation of Church and State
  • Anti-Defamation League
  • Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
  • Baptist Center for Ethics
  • Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
  • Baptist Women in Ministry
  • Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
  • B’nai B’rith International
  • BoardSource
  • BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz
  • Bright Lines Project
  • Campaign Legal Center
  • Catholics for Choice
  • Center for American Progress
  • Center for Inquiry
  • CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
  • Central Conference of American Rabbis
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
  • Common Cause
  • Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
  • Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
  • Corporate Accountability
  • Council on Foundations
  • Dance/USA
  • Democracy 21
  • DignityUSA
  • Disciples Center for Public Witness
  • Disciples Justice Action Network
  • Easterseals
  • End Citizens United
  • Equal Partners in Faith
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Faith in Public Life
  • Feeding America
  • Forum for Youth Investment
  • Franciscan Action Network
  • Freedom From Religion Foundation
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation
  • Girl Scouts of the USA
  • Girls Inc.
  • Goodwill Industries International
  • Habitat for Humanity International
  • Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
  • Impact Fund
  • Independent Sector
  • Interfaith Alliance
  • International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
  • Islamic Networks Group (ING)
  • Jewish Council for Public Affairs
  • Jewish Federations of North America
  • Land Trust Alliance
  • League of American Orchestras
  • League of Women Voters of the United States
  • MADRE
  • Meals on Wheels America
  • Medical Students for Choice
  • Men of Reform Judaism
  • MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
  • Methodist Federation for Social Action
  • Mommieactivist and Sons
  • Moravian Church in America
  • MOVI, Money Out Voters In
  • Muslim Public Affairs Council
  • Muslims for Progressive Values
  • National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, & Community Empowerment (National PLACE)
  • National Center for Transgender Equality
  • National Council of Churches
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • National Council of Nonprofits
  • National Down Syndrome Congress
  • National Employment Law Project
  • National Human Services Assembly
  • National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
  • New Baptist Covenant
  • New Ways Ministry
  • OPERA America
  • Oxfam America
  • Partnership for America’s Children
  • Patriotic Millionaires
  • People For the American Way
  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America
  • Presbyterian Office of Public Witness
  • Public Citizen
  • Rabbinical Assembly
  • Reconstructing Judaism
  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
  • Religious Institute
  • Secular Coalition for America
  • Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  • TASH
  • The Advocacy Institute
  • The Arc of the U.S.
  • The Church Network
  • The Episcopal Church
  • The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
  • T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
  • Union for Reform Judaism Unitarian Universalist Association
  • United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
  • United Philanthropy Forum
  • United To Amend
  • Voices for Progress
  • Volunteers of America
  • Women of Reform Judaism
  • Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)
  • YWCA USA