Opinion

Protect Johnson Amendment

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To the Editor;
The upcoming spending bill in Congress is being used to sneak in language to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment, the law that since 1954 has shielded nonprofit organizations from partisan politicking. That bill must pass by March 23 to keep the federal government from running out of money (and shutting down for a third time this year).

Under current rules, clergy can speak on political and moral issues as they see fit, even during election season. What they cannot do is engage in partisan election activity using a government subsidy in the form of tax exemptions and tax-deductible contributions for their houses of worship.

But imagine that in every sermon for the six months leading up to the election, a pastor endorsed various candidates and reiterated those endorsements. Suppose in every regular bulletin or email over those six months, the pastor or church leaders focused on endorsements. Nothing would stop a church, synagogue or mosque from using its volunteers to phone-bank or canvass for an endorsed candidate or pass the plate for political contributions at the same time it accepted tithes and offerings.

This would result in billions of dollars in nontransparent, anonymous political campaign spending redirected to houses of worship to take advantage of the tax-deductibility of such donations and the exemption for houses of worship from reporting their donors.

I hope that our senators and representatives will not vote for any spending bill that has this parasitic idea attached. Call or write to them to let them know you don’t want your nonprofit organization polluted by politics.

Patricia Dowse
Cambridge

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