What does this mean to the citizens, church members, donors to non-profits, and members of organizations that have tax exempt status?
President Trump has made it clear that he will repeal the Johnson Amendment. What does this mean to the citizens, church members, donors to non-profits, and members of organizations that have tax exempt status?
First, the main premise of the Johnson Amendment is that tax exempt non-profit groups cannot support and donate funds to individual political office holders and/or candidates. During the Obama Presidency, there was criticism of the Jerimiah Wright connection and the politics of his church.
We must realize that the Johnson Amendment has not been strictly enforced. We are aware that the 700 Club has been showing grand support for right wing candidates and has not had their status revoked. The same can be said for Al Sharpton and others in these groups who hide under the radar as Christian Non-Profit Groups. Many have stretched their bounds to the extreme and not had their status taken away, as is allowed by the Johnson Amendment.
From my understanding, this amendment was the child of then-Senator Lyndon Johnson as a way to stop massive contributions against his reelection. It has, however, in spite of its dubious beginning, had many positive results, as most groups who work under the 401(c)(3) status abide by the rule.
Let’s take a look at what repeal means. First, it means that your church can, without your permission, use money that you have donated for political means — not only your church, but your denomination as well.
Your tax exempt organization can do the same — with or without your approval, use funds that you have raised for the purpose of politics. As this begins to happen, we will see infighting begin within the group, and before long there will be hard feelings and people leave the church, the club, or whatever.
Endorsement of candidates has long been one of the most divisive aspects of union membership. Unions are constantly bashed for their politics. They lose membership because of endorsements and are subject to backlash from corporations, influential political groups and powerful individuals who do not want union input. Do we really want our churches to be subject to such scrutiny politically? Do we want any religion to be able to raise funds to promote the overthrow of our government and do it as a tax-exempt organization?
The glue that binds us in many cases is the separation of “Church and State.” Our founders stood fast on that concept. The Johnson Amendment strengthens that concept. Politics is not, in our opinion, something to be expressed from the pulpit or from the mouths of the leaders of any not-for-profit group.
Such repeal of the Johnson Amendment should carry with it a repeal of the 501(c)(3) tax exempt status for all holders of that status. Doing this would then make all non-profits, foundations etc. that fall under this status be taxable.
If this amendment is repealed, we will see politics become the main focus of too many churches and non-profits, and the focus taken away of the true mission of the entity we have supported with our time, our resources, and with all our heart. If you feel as I do, please take the time to contact our people in Washington. As usual, they may not listen, but they are our only hope to stop this movement.
We have always been told, “If you do the right thing the right thing will happen.” We cannot see any good coming from “this thing,” so in that case we must say “it is not the right thing.” “If you want to be in politics, don’t expect to be tax exempt.”
— Bobbie Hulse is a McPherson resident.