The Johnson Amendment is essential for the nonprofit sector. Here's why iT must be protected.

On May 4, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order with the goal of effectively repealing the Johnson Amendment.  While officially repealing the Johnson Amendment requires an act of Congress, there have been legislative attempts to weaken it significantly, including attempts in early versions of the most recent tax bill.  This trend continues into 2018, and requires nonprofits to work to defend the bill. 

The Johnson Amendment prohibits tax exempt organizations that receive tax deductible donations from engaging in electioneering. As a nonprofit, you need to know why this is an important issue that will directly impact your organization and the sector as a whole.

Here are four important points:

  1. Those interesting in ending the Johnson Amendment frame the conversation as a religious liberty issue.  The Johnson Amendment applies to all 501(c)(3)s, not just religious organizations.  

  2. Some believe the Johnson Amendment infringes on their  “moral or political issues from a religious perspective…” But 501(c)(3) organizations — which includes religious organizations — are already allowed to engage in advocacy, including some lobbying, in support of such positions. 

  3. The Johnson Amendment prohibits electioneering – which is more about supporting or opposing specific candidates – and that’s a good thing! If the Johnson Amendment is repealed, all 501(c)(3)s will face pressure to support or oppose specific candidates as a quid pro quo for government funding or other support.

  4. Most concerning: 510(c)(3) tax-deductible donations should not go to support or oppose a specific candidate. Some 501(c)(3)s would be set up to funnel anonymous tax-deductible money into influencing elections, undercutting the well-deserved public trust of 501(c)(3)s. 

MCN opposes any changes to the Johnson Amendment – including attempts to relax provisions, create exemptions or carve outs.  

MCN urges all 501(c)(3)s to contact their congressional representatives and ask that they reject these proposed changes and instead prioritize the many other issues impacting our communities. Similarly almost all religious leaders and nonprofit organizations support the Johnson Amendment and believe it should stay in place.

Importantly, most legislators support the Johnson Amendment or haven’t really thought about it that much – they need to hear from you!