Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and several of his House colleagues have proposed a rather simple amendment to the Republicans’ “tax reform” bill.
That’s it. “Strike section 5201 of the bill.” Seems innocuous enough.
If adopted, however, it would have the effect of preventing churches from turning into “dark money shops” and fundraising arms of the GOP. That’s because section 5201 gets rid of the Johnson Amendment. If section 5201 is adopted, pastors would be able to endorse candidates from the pulpit without fear of losing their tax exemptions. It’s a special privilege that would only be made available to religious non-profits (which is why some church/state separation groups are preparing to sue the government if it passes).
Lewis — and many religious leaders themselves — don’t want to see that happen. They want religion and politics to remain separate, and they certainly don’t want pastors telling their congregations how to vote. Lewis’ amendment would solve that problem by keeping the law just as it is.
To be sure, the current law isn’t great only because some churches break it without consequence. They purposely endorse candidates because they want the IRS coming after them so they can sue over religious discrimination… but the IRS has rarely given them that opportunity. The tax reform bill, with the Johnson Amendment repeal in it, would take away even the possibility of the IRS punishing them.
That’s why this amendment should be adopted immediately.
It would be good for politics. It would be good for churches. And it would be horrible for the Religious Right. Do you really need any more reasons than that?
If you feel the same way, contact the House Ways and Means Committee and urge them to adopt the Lewis Amendment.
***Update***: And just like that, the Committee has voted to reject Lewis’ amendment.
#BREAKING: House Ways and Means Committee just voted to reject an amendment to the tax reform bill introduced by @repjohnlewis. The amendment would have removed the provision allowing tax-exempt churches to endorse political candidates
— Secular Coalition (@seculardotorg) November 8, 2017
The fight continues.