The Johnson Amendment is a federal prohibition on partisan politicking from the pulpit has been in place since 1954, located in section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. It establishes that tax-exempt entities may not endorse or oppose candidates or parties for elected office. This includes donating to campaigns, endorsements from the pulpit, or using congregational resources such as the temple bulletin to support or oppose individual candidates.
Religious leaders have an absolute right and obligation to use their pulpit to address the moral and political issues of the day. Current law limits groups from being both tax-exempt ministries and partisan political outfits. This simple and unambiguous provision of federal law has served as a valuable safeguard for the integrity of both religious institutions and the political process.
Here are some resources about the Johnson Amendment:
- President Trump recently issued an executive order (May 4, 2017) that was billed as changing the Johnson Amendment. It does not meaningfully change how the Johnson Amendment is enforced. Here is an article from RAC Associate Director Barbara Weinstein on the executive order and what it means for congregations.
- Rabbi David Saperstein's testimony on the importance of the Johnson Amendment. The testimony was given on May 4, 2017 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Health Care, Benefits and Administration Subcommittee and Government Operations Subcommittee.
- The URJ, CCAR and WRJ all joined a letter signed by 99 total religious organizations in opposition to weakening or repealing the Johnson Amendment.
- A letter organized by the National Council of Nonprofits, also in support of the Johnson Amendment, signed by 4,500 organizations.
- For faith leaders: a sign on letter opposed to weakening or repealing the Johnson Amendment. Learn more and sign on at faith-voices.org.