Earlier this week, a broad coalition of charitable nonprofit groups urged Congress to maintain current law that prohibits 501(c)(3) groups from endorsing political candidates.
The letter to Congress was signed by almost 4,500 organizations from across the country, and calls on lawmakers to preserve the so-called Johnson Amendment, named for Lyndon Johnson who introduced it in the Senate in 1954. The measure prevents churches and charitable organizations from directly or indirectly participating in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate.
President Trump has vowed to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment and allow church leaders to speak freely about political candidates from the pulpit. House tax writers have also indicated they will include repeal of the Johnson Amendment in the tax reform bill they are currently drafting for this session.
The letter to Congress is part of an effort to keep the Johnson Amendment in place led by the National Council of Nonprofits, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, BoardSource, Council on Foundations, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, Habitat for Humanity International, Independent Sector, Jewish Federations of North America, National Human Services Academy and Volunteers of America.
The Johnson Amendment “screens out doubts and suspicions regarding ulterior partisan motives of charitable organizations, as undoubtedly would occur if even just a few charitable organizations engaged in partisan politics,” the groups said in their letter to Congress.
ASAE also believes the Johnson Amendment is an important safeguard for the charitable sector. “Public trust is critical to the credibility and effectiveness of donor-based nonprofits,” said ASAE President and CEO John Graham, FASAE, CAE. “While ASAE is fully supportive and will vigorously defend the First Amendment rights of nonprofit groups to advocate on public policy issues that impact their missions, the Johnson Amendment exists to ensure nonpartisanship in organizations that receive tax-deductible contributions. Opening nonprofits up to partisan politics would undermine their purpose and ability to effectively address community needs.”