POLICY ALERT: Your action needed on Johnson Amendment
Feb. 20, 2018 - We are asking for your immediate attention. Quickly-moving policy developments in the Georgia Senate's Finance Committee could help end federal enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, the federal law governing the nonpartisan nature of nonprofits and faith institutions. The resolution in question may be considered as soon as this week. Will you stand with us against it? Our Federal Issues Coalition has prepared a letter to our state senators, which we’d like you to review and sign by no later than this Friday, Feb. 23.
Georgia State Senate Resolution 752 was referred to the Finance Committee on February 13, 2018. If passed, Georgia will provide official encouragement for the U.S. Congress to effectively end enforcement of the Internal Revenue Code’s Johnson Amendment. As stated in our letter:
Charitable nonprofits in Georgia, including houses of worship and foundations, vigorously object to any and all efforts to weaken the provision in tax law that protects them from being polarized and diverted from their proper missions by the manipulative pressures of partisan politics.
We, the undersigned, fully support the Johnson Amendment, the third condition for Section 501c3 eligibility. It states that a charitable nonprofit, religious organization, or foundation may not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
Current law protects the integrity and independence of the entire 501c3 community by shielding organizations from the rancor of partisan politics. Removing the Johnson Amendment would take away this long-standing, ironclad protection for charitable institutions and houses of worship, potentially subjecting tens of thousands of congregations and supporters to overzealous solicitations from politicians, paid consultants, and politically motivated donors.
If you’re not familiar with the issue, this Nonprofit Quarterly article offers an excellent short primer: It lays out the issues, the arguments in opposition to changing current law, and the numerous adverse consequences for our sector, and the people we serve, if the law does change.
To be clear, this resolution would formalize Georgia’s support for the dismantling of the Johnson Amendment, placing our state in cooperation with other states attempting similar measures and adding to the influence of federal legislators attempting to harm the charitable sector for the sake of divisive politics. As nonprofits, foundations, and faith leaders, we must not allow a few politically motivated legislators speak on our behalf.
What we ask you to do
Here are two steps you can take to oppose this measure:
1. Sign on to our letter showing your support for keeping charities nonpartisan. Please provide your organization’s name and logo, if possible.
Assuming we reach critical mass in terms of participation, we plan to deliver the letter this Wednesday, Feb. 21, adding to the signatories on Friday. We plan to format the letter with your organizational names, arranged alphabetically by county, and include your logos for additional impact. We will likely issue a press release to ensure that the members of the Committee and the public know of the sector’s opposition.
2. Mobilize your members, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders to call their elected representatives on the Senate Finance Committee this week. Ask them to speak out in opposition to Georgia Senate members who would encourage lawmakers to remove this provision from federal law. Share this article explaining the pitfalls of making charities, foundations, and churches into instruments of partisan politics.
By working together, we can show the Georgia State Senate’s Finance Committee members that the nonprofit community – in each of their districts and across Georgia – strongly opposes any measure that would weaken enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.
On behalf of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits Federal Issues Coalition, we thank you for your prompt action.
President and CEO
Georgia Center for Nonprofits