If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For more than 60 years, the Johnson Amendment has successfully protected the charities serving you, me and our communities as a safe space free to advance our missions without the rancor of partisan politics. The law, proposed by Senator Lyndon Johnson and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954, prohibits churches and other charitable nonprofits and foundations from endorsing political candidates.
Some in Congress and the Trump Administration want to repeal or weaken the protections in the law. This change would allow preachers to endorse political candidates from the pulpit, but the impact and consequences go much further. That is why we, along with the vast majority of congregations, charitable nonprofits and foundations, strongly oppose efforts to change the law – endorsing or contributing to candidates, even if by only a few organizations, would destroy the nonpartisanship necessary for nonprofits to effectively solve problems in our communities.
Watering down or repealing the Johnson Amendment matters to all Kentuckians. When the nonprofit sector is damaged, the people we serve suffer most. For nonprofits to be safe places where people of all parties join forces to enhance the quality of life for all Kentuckians, we need your support.
The current protection applies to all 501 (c)(3) charitable nonprofits – including the homeless shelter, child care center, animal rescue organization, art museum, veteran’s aid organization, nonprofit hospital, and your congregation. Your favorite causes would be affected, and partisanship would harm each one.
Your donations to charitable nonprofits are investments in solving community problems and caring for Kentucky’s citizens. The public’s trust is vital to supporting these investments. Allowing people to make tax-deductible contributions to groups who endorse or oppose candidates would erode the integrity of the nonprofit sector. It is in everyone’s interest to keep dark money out of charitable nonprofits and congregations.
Protecting the Johnson Amendment isn’t a free speech issue – advocacy and candidate endorsement are not the same. Protecting the Johnson Amendment isn’t a religious issue – the implications reach beyond the pulpit. Protecting the Johnson Amendment is not even a partisan issue. For more than six decades, the provision to maintain a neutral playing field has been respected and supported by both parties. While nonprofits may take public policy positions that are favored by one group of elected officials more than another group, candidate endorsement or opposition is detrimental to the neutrality and integrity of the sector.
Protecting the Johnson Amendment is common sense. Kentucky Nonprofit Network, our commonwealth’s association of charitable nonprofits, and the Kentucky Council of Churches, representing eleven denominations, call on Kentuckians to stand with us in rejecting any effort to weaken or dismantle the Johnson Amendment. Send a loud and clear message to Washington that partisan politics have no place in charitable nonprofits and faith communities.
Rev. Dr. Peggy C. Hinds, Interim Executive Director
Kentucky Council of Churches