BILL RESTORES FREE SPEECH TO CHURCHES
By Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
March 29, 2017 -- Most non-profit organizations have a purpose. For example, one of FRC's purposes
is to advance issues like religious freedom. It follows that as we communicate with people about issues,
we should also be able to speak about and endorse political candidates who share our values and
purpose. This is the meaning of free speech.
The same is true for other non-profits, including churches. Whether
a person wants his church to endorse or oppose political
candidates is a separate question, but it should not be a question
about whether or not a church has the constitutional right to do so.
That right has essentially been taken away by the Johnson
Amendment of 1954. The Johnson Amendment says that tax-
exempt organizations cannot participate in, or intervene in, any
political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate
for public office.
It was introduced by Lyndon Johnson in 1954 after a tough
reelection to the Senate, where a tax-exempt organization worked
to defeat him. The measure was passed without any debate or
hearings about its implications for churches, charities, and their
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)
introduced the Free Speech Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 781., S. 264) to roll back the Johnson
Amendment. A non-profit organization should not lose its tax-exempt status or be threatened with audits
because it exercises its constitutional right to speak in favor of political candidates who share the
organization's values and mission. Once the Free Speech Fairness Act is passed, pastors and organizational
leaders' constitutional right to free speech will be restored.