BY CRISTINA MARCOS
02/02/17 The Hill
On the same day President Trump vowed to “destroy” a law preventing religious groups and churches from engaging in political activities, Republicans in the House and Senate introduced legislation to make the proposal reality.
The law known as the Johnson Amendment, first enacted in 1954, prohibits churches and other religious organizations from keeping their tax-exempt status if they endorse political candidates or participate in partisan political activities.
The bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who is a Southern Baptist pastor, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) would let the organizations remain tax-exempt and express political views as long as they are made during regular activities. Any associated spending would have to be minimal.
“For too long, the IRS has used the Johnson Amendment to silence and threaten religious institutions and charitable entities. As a minister who has experienced intimidation from the IRS firsthand, I know just how important it is to ensure that our churches and nonprofit organizations are allowed the same fundamental rights as every citizen of this great nation,” Hice said in a statement on Thursday.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) has introduced companion legislation in the upper chamber.
“People who work for a nonprofit still have constitutional rights to assembly, free speech, and free press,” Lankford said.
Earlier in the day, Trump reaffirmed his support — first made during his campaign — for getting rid of the Johnson Amendment during remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast.
“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” Trump said.