Congress has a historic opportunity to protect the free speech rights of churches and non-profits on the tax reform bill Congress is expected to finalize and send to the president before Christmas! The House passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act contains a critical provision called the “Free Speech Fairness” Act” to gut the Johnson Amendment restriction on churches and non-profits from engaging in political speech. However, the Senate’s version of the bill did not contain this provision.
The House and Senate have created a special “conference” to reconcile the different versions of the tax bill, and they plan to meet starting today. I want to encourage you to contact the “conferees” and the House and Senate leadership to ensure the final bill includes the repeal of the speech-killing Johnson Amendment.
For more than 60 years, the IRS has used the “Johnson Amendment” to censor what pastors preach from the pulpit. Under the Johnson Amendment, pastors’ First Amendment rights have become bargaining chips to be exchanged for a tax status. Pastors who share truth on biblical issues – like the sanctity of life and marriage – could risk intrusive IRS audits, incur steep fines, and even jeopardize their church’s tax-exempt status.
It’s also important to note that the House-passed version’s repeal of the Johnson Amendment contains a “sunset” date, and would mean it would go back into effect in 2024. Congress must ensure that the House language regarding the Johnson Amendment is included in the final passage of the bill and that the sunset is removed from the final conference report. The Constitution should not be sunset.
Please call the GOP conferees and House and Senate leadership offices today or tomorrow and encourage them to keep the Fairness Act language and to remove the 2024 sunset so they can send this critical provision to President Trump before Christmas!