Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee failed to pass an amendment to the appropriations bill (largely along party lines), leaving in a controversial rider (Section 116) that would effectively prevent the IRS from enforcing the 501(c)(3) prohibition against political campaign intervention activities (known as the Johnson Amendment), but only specifically against churches and other houses of worship.
Section 116 of the the House Financial Services and General Government FY2018 Appropriations bill provides as follows:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Internal Revenue Service to make a determination that a church, an integrated auxiliary of a church, or a convention or association of churches is not exempt from taxation for participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office unless.
(1) the Commissioner of Internal Revenue consents to such determination;
(2) not later than 30 days after such determination, the Commissioner notifies the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Finance of the Senate of such determination; and
(3) such determination is effective with respect to the church, integrated auxiliary of a church, or convention or association of churches not earlier than 90 days after the date of the notification under paragraph (2).
This provision generally promotes the non-enforcement of an existing law where churches are involved (but still allows enforcement against other types of charities, which seems to raise a constitutionality issue). And cynically (but fairly), it may be seen as encouraging political operatives to funnel deductible contributions through churches to support political campaigns despite the law prohibiting such use.
Learn more about why we join the large majority of opinions supporting the protection of the 501(c)(3) community (including churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques) from being used as political tools laundering deductible contributions – Take Action Today to Protect the Nonprofit, Religious, and Foundation Communities!
Statement from Tim Delaney, CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits
There are many problems bedeviling our country, but unleashing partisan politics into our houses of worship will not solve any of them. For charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations that work every day to solve problems in their communities, nonpartisanship is not merely a concept; it is a way of life. That way of life came under direct assault today when the House Appropriations Committee voted to keep an unconstitutional and unworkable provision (Section 116) in the Financial Services appropriations bill.
Measure to Weaken Johnson Amendment Moves Forward (Nonprofit Quarterly)
Nonprofit Political Activity (Independent Sector)