Tag Archives: Johnson amendment

Politicians Should Look Elsewhere for Endorsements and Campaign Contributions

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.

Danielle Clore, Executive Director/CEO
Kentucky Nonprofit Network
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Rev. Dr. Peggy C. Hinds, Interim Executive Director
Kentucky Council of Churches

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Advocacy is no longer optional

To our members – advocacy is no longer optional…

KNN has put out plenty of “calls to action” before.  We’ve asked you to join us at Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol.  We’ve asked you to email and call legislators and government officials to request support or voice opposition to legislation or policies that impacted the sector.  We’ve often urged (and sometimes begged) you to get engaged and form relationships with legislators so that, when the time comes, the sector won’t be “asking strangers for a favor.”  We’ve created tools to help you easily educate local, state and federal officials on the economic importance of the sector, as well as provided talking points on our efforts to streamline nonprofit contracts with government and update the laws governing nonprofits in Kentucky.

But my email to you today, this call to action, is different.  Why?  Because advocacy is no longer optional. Why? Here’s a short list (though not exhaustive) of issues your state association is closely monitoring:  

Efforts to Politicize Nonprofits

KNN is opposed to the repeal of the Johnson Amendment for a number of reasons (see some outlined in the articles below) – primarily because we believe remaining nonpartisan is vital to the work of nonprofits.  There’s long been confusion about what nonprofits can and cannot do with regard to lobbying and election activity.  Essentially, nonprofits (501 c 3 organizations) can (and should) take positions on issues and legislation, but cannot endorse specific candidates.  Politicians pushing nonprofits for endorsements would put nonprofits in a position that would ultimately put our missions at risk. Certainly, some of our members (some of whom are churches) may disagree, they are ready to jump in to electioneering.  But this is about more than the pulpit.  Read more on this issue…

Threats to the Charitable Giving Tax Deduction and Other Unknowns of Tax Reform

There are few things that unite nonprofits more than protection of our tax-exempt status and the charitable giving tax deduction.  As the federal tax reform process is expected to begin in the next few weeks, its predicted that tax reform plans are likely to reduce individual and corporate tax rates, cut down on the number of tax brackets, increase the standard deduction, and repeal the federal estate tax. Kentucky is expected to take up tax reform in a special legislative session.  Incentives for charitable giving will be a major topic of both discussions – proposals range from removing the deduction entirely to expanding it.  KNN supports policies that encourages charitable giving to invest in the work of nonprofits.  Read more…

Early Discussion on Federal Spending Cuts 

The federal spending plan for the remainder of this fiscal year is unclear, but details are emerging for budget proposals for FY 2018 beginning on October 1. Administration officials have suggested that the President will seek to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years, with most of the spending cuts coming from domestic programs.  Many of the spending cuts being considered are troubling to nonprofits (and communities), including the possibility of eliminating the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Grants, abolishing the Legal Services Corporation, reducing funding for DOJ’s Civil Rights division, privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and eliminating both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A steep reduction in domestic spending would have significant implications for Kentucky’s budget, since a large portion of the state’s spending comes from federal appropriations and block grants. Of course, KNN will keep you posted as proposals become public.

So, what am I asking you to do?

  1. Get informed.  Read up on the issues mentioned above; know your state legislators and members of Congress – if you haven’t already, know how to contact them and the Governor; check out KNN’s 2017 public policy agenda and legislative priorities.
  2. Get engaged. Secure support of your board of directors to clarify your organization’s own public policy priorities, as well as those of the sector; register to stand with the sector on February 14 at Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol.
  3. Get others on board. Please help us strengthen the sector’s unified voice.  Reach out to a colleague of yours and ask them to stand with us – to become a KNN member, to attend Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol or both!

And if you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, you are not alone.  I urge you to join me in taking deliberate steps to take care of yourself and support your team during these uncertain times.  To stop the unending (and often upsetting) distractions throughout the work day, I tried avoiding social media and news until the end of my day.  Well, then I couldn’t sleep.  I certainly don’t have the right answer yet, but here are a few resources on staying focused and avoiding “psychological devastation in your newsfeed.”

I’m grateful we have each other.  You need us – KNN is here as your state association, to look out for the sector’s collective best interests and keep you informed.  And we need you – we can’t do this work without you.  What you are seeing and experiencing on the front lines is important – please, let us hear from you.

In summary, I know your organization has its own priorities and these may or may not include legislative or public policy priorities.  I also know you are busy and likely struggling with limited resources.  I get it – I truly do.  But make no mistake about it – the sector’s priorities must now be your priorities too.  Let’s stand together in Kentucky and with nonprofits across the nation to keep pushing ahead, to let our voice be heard and to take advantage of this critical opportunity to educate policy makers and the public on vital role and importance of the nonprofit sector.

Advocacy is no longer optional.  

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