“As Congress is racing to complete the omnibus spending bill before Passover and Easter, well-funded special interests and powerful politicians are seeking to attach an anti-Johnson Amendment rider under the guise of ‘free speech.’ In truth, their proposal would amount to forcing taxpayers to subsidize the political speech of others.” -Tim Delaney, President and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits
President Donald Trump and other lawmakers seek to repeal the Johnson Amendment, arguing that it restricts the free speech rights of churches and other religious groups. What the heck is the Johnson Amendment and why does it matter? Why do most nonprofits, even religious groups, oppose its weakening?
The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Section 501(c)(3) organizations are the most common type of nonprofit organization in the United States, ranging from charitable foundations to universities and churches.
Not only would this change enable non-profits to provide endorsements, it would make political contributions to these organizations tax deductible—a practice that currently is not legal. Further, nonprofits, by and large, benefit from existing within a politically neutral zone by building bipartisan support for their work. Pressure to make endorsements would likely increase. As supporters of arts and culture, it is urgent that you join the call to keep the Johnson Amendment intact. It is citizens who have beaten back this effort thus far (sign the The Community Letter in Support of Nonprofit Nonpartisanship) and it is people like you who can make a difference going forward.
As our friends at Maryland Nonprofits say, “Those seeking to politicize 501(c)(3) organizations are back, vowing to have their way and trying to attach their anti-Johnson Amendment language to the mammoth spending bill working its way through Congress right now. All individuals who care about the integrity and effectiveness of a nonprofit’s mission need to take action to protect the Johnson Amendment and tell Congress not to change this vital and longstanding law.”
Stay safe in the ice and snow,
P.S. I am so honored to be among the amazing group of women who were recently named Maryland's Top 100 Women by The Daily Record. Congratulations to all, and especially to Terry Morgenthaler, the amazing President of the Baltimore Center Stage Board of Directors.