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Keep churches out of politics

June 21, 2018
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To the editor:

The Johnson Amendment wisely prevents intervention in a political campaign by 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, including churches. Yet Donald Trump has promised to an important component of his base - white evangelicals - that he will overturn this amendment and give political power to churches

Frances Rooney not only agrees with President Trump on this issue but also plans to co-sponsor the Free Speech Fairness Act (HR 781) that would repeal the Johnson Amendment. His stated rationale in a letter I received is, "Faith-based organizations should be able to speak openly and freely on issues that are important to long as a group's religious beliefs are not forced on others"

However, clergy are already free to express their political beliefs and can sermonize on moral issues such as civil rights, abortion, and poverty. The Johnson Amendment only prohibits them from endorsing candidates from the pulpit and using tax-exempt donations for direct political purposes such as distributing campaign literature. If they wish to do so, they must give up their tax-exempt status.

The potential consequences of allowing tax-exempt money to be used for political purposes are horrific. Large political donors would get write-offs that would cost tax payers billions. Churches could be turned into super PACS heavily influenced, if not controlled by large political donors. Contributions could be diverted from charity to partisan activity.

In April 2017 more than 5,500 nonprofit organizations signed a letter asking Congress to protect the Johnson Amendment and more than 4,000 faith leaders have signed a similar letter. Why would Frances Rooney cosponsor the amendment's repeal?

Carol Montgomery.




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