Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) has introduced legislation to the U.S House that would allow churches to endorse political candidates without losing their tax exempt status, raising the ire of at least one watchdog group.
H.R. 3600 would repeal the Johnson amendment in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, which prohibits charities and churches from participating in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate. The provision is named after then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who proposed it in 1954.
"Religious politicking is a flat-out bad idea for a number of reasons," said Emily Krueger of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "Making this change would dramatically impact our campaign finance system – houses of worship are tax exempt because they are supposed to be charitable, not political. For this reason, contributions made to them are tax deductible while political donations are not."
Jones also proposed the legislation in 2007, but the bill never made it out of the House Committee on Ways and Means. In 2002, the House rejected Jone's bill by a 239 to 178 vote.
"The bill has failed time and time again as it surely will this time around, and yet Rep. Jones refuses to quit," Krueger remarked. "This effort to unfairly change IRS code is misguided, bad for government, and bad for religion."