May 4th, 2017
For Immediate Release
Contact: Janine Walsh
Franciscan Action Network
Franciscans Object to Weakening of the Johnson Amendment
Latest Executive Order Could Lead to Unwanted Politicization of Churches and Threaten Their Social Services
Washington D.C. - On Thursday, May 4th, President Trump signed an Executive Order eliminating enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. Passed by Congress in 1954, this legislation prevents 501(c)(3)s, including faith leaders and houses of worship, from publicly endorsing political candidates. Lack of enforcement would mark a major and unwanted shift towards partisanship and politicization in religious spaces, and while the language of President Trump's directive to the IRS calls the Johnson Amendment a "burden," it is, in fact, a critical safeguard against making Churches partisan and ensuring that they can carry out important social services.
For many, our faith impels us to address the moral and political issues of the present moment. Therefore, few religious groups seek to completely abstain from engaging in political dialogue. However, by preventing our faith leaders and institutions from endorsing political candidates - financially and otherwise - the Johnson Amendment maintains the integrity of the prophetic voices that lead us to do good in the world. Houses of worship belong to a unique and ever-shrinking handful of spaces where individuals of opposing political views can come together to celebrate and practice their shared values, free from the burden of partisanship. The Franciscan Action Network voices strong support for maintaining the Johnson Amendment.
We are hardly alone: over 100 faith organizations recently signed onto a letter to Congress, urging them to maintain the strength and application of the Johnson Amendment. As the letter states, "The charitable sector, particularly houses of worship, should not become another cog in a political machine or another loophole in campaign finance laws."
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network, echoes this sentiment, saying "Churches have a duty to be political and speak out on issues of the day, but must not become partisan. At a time of intense partisan divide, our churches are some of our last sanctuaries, where we can come together in community despite our differences."