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Giving Compass' Take:
• Samuel Brunson explains the impacts of the Johnson Amendment and why President Trump is pushing to remove it.
• Do we need the Johnson Amendment? Should it be changed?
During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump promised his Evangelical supporters that he would eliminate the Johnson Amendment, a law that has barred tax-exempt charities from weighing in on political candidates since the 1950s.
Trump reiterated his promise at the first National Prayer Breakfast of his presidency, telling the audience he would “get rid of and totally destroy” it. In July 2017, he claimed success, signing an executive order designed to do just that.
Taking credit for eliminating the Johnson Amendment turned out to be premature because doing so requires an act of Congress. But some Republican lawmakers are stepping up.
As a law professor who studies how the tax law impacts churches, I believe that repealing the Johnson Amendment could alter electoral politics by making it easier for people to anonymously funnel tax-deductible donations to political candidates. And even if that doesn’t happen, its repeal could prove tremendously damaging to the very churches that Trump was apparently trying to help.
Technically, the Johnson Amendment prohibits charities from supporting or opposing candidates for office. This ban covers a spectrum of actions, ranging from endorsements made out loud or in writing to giving candidates money. Charities that violate this prohibition lose their tax exemption and may get fined.
But charities don’t have to stay out of politics altogether. Nonprofits lobby all the time, both to protect their own interests and to further their missions.
And that lobbying is not subject to a blanket prohibition. Rather, it is subject to a second restriction: The activities cannot constitute a “substantial” amount of a charity’s work measured in time and money.
Read the full article about the Johnson Amendment by Samuel Brunson at The Conversation.