Secular, Religious Nonprofits Petition To Save Johnson Amendment

Almost 4,500 organizations from around the country, in every state and every segment of the nonprofit sector, have signed on to a “Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship.” The April 5 letter was sent to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The Community Letter is an effort by broad coalition of 10 national nonprofit and foundation networks to protect existing law that has come under consideration for repeal or modification. The provision, often referred to as the “Johnson Amendment,” prohibits charities and foundations from engaging in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for public office.

The collaborative initiative is a project of the National Council of Nonprofits, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, BoardSource, Council on Foundations, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, Habitat for Humanity International, Independent Sector, Jewish Federations of North America, National Human Services Assembly, and Volunteers of America.

President Donald Trump has called for repealing the Johnson Amendment and it was also part of the Republican National Committee’s platform last summer. The measure is named for then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, who proposed it in 1954. It was later enacted by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Dwight Eisenhower.

“Nonpartisanship is vital to the work of charitable nonprofits,” said Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits. “It enables organizations to address community challenges, and invites the problem-solving skills of all residents, without the distractions of party labels and the divisive partisan politics that currently bedevils our country,” he said.

Current law is the reason that charities are “trusted safe havens from partisanship,” Delaney said, “a place where people can come together to actually solve community problems rather than just posture and remain torn apart.”

On Tuesday, almost 100 religious and denominational organizations delivered a letter declaring that they “strongly opposed any effort to weaken or elimination protections” in Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code.

A survey released last week by Independent Sector and the Bright Lines Project showed that 72 percent of American voters want to keep the current rules that prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in partisan political activity.