Thursday, October 13, 2016

Potential Change to Ban Created by Johnson Amendment


Bloomberg reports that a new bill (H.R. 6195) has been introduced that would allow 501(c)(3) organizations to make statements about political campaigns, if the statements “are made in the ordinary course of carrying out its tax-exempt purpose.” Many believe this exemption is overly broad, creating issues with enforcement. Ms. Kinglsey, a Washington attorney, stated that “you’re creating a loophole for people to drive a truck through . . . .” A particular concern related to broadness comes with the lack of a definition of what exactly is an organization’s “regular and customary activities.” Under the bill, a 501(c)(3) organization could not hold a specific fundraiser for a candidate, but they could encourage their constituents to donate to political candidates.

To abate the possibility of an influx of financial donations, the bill states that organizations may not incur more than “de minimis incremental expenses” in the process of making a political statement.

Many church leaders believe they have a fundamental right to voice their political opinion. Erik W. Stanley, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said “No tax exemption can be based on a requirement that a church or any other non-profit organization give up a constitutionally protected freedom, including free speech. With regard to churches, they can decide for themselves what they should or shouldn’t say from the pulpit.”

Will Congress view this proposal as a necessary expansion of speech, or as an overly difficult rule to enforce?

David Brennen

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What is interesting about the Johnson Amendment is that there has always been a "double standard." For many years, one party's candidates have been invited to address congregations in their physical facilities and received substantial press coverage surrounding those appearances. Where such invitations are extended, is this not similarly expression as endorsements? Enforce it or repeal it!

Posted by: Tom N. | Oct 20, 2016 12:56:17 PM

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