Religious liberty is one of the core values that we advocate for at New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. Since 1954, the federal Johnson Amendment has infringed upon religious liberty by placing limits on the free speech of churches and charities that wish to remain exempt from federal income taxes. While the Johnson Amendment does not ban nonpartisan educational activities by churches and charities, it does bar tax-exempt organizations like churches and nonprofit charities from endorsing political parties or candidates. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, pastors who speak out on biblical issues like the sanctity of life and marriage could risk intrusive IRS audits, incur steep fines, and even jeopardize their church’s tax-exempt status. Sadly, the Johnson Amendment has also had a chilling effect; many churches and pastors—confused about the Amendment’s provisions—have steered clear of teaching on issues relating to politics and government altogether.
The Free Speech Fairness Act (H.R. 781-Scalise) would correct this problem. According to ADF, the FSFA would amend the Internal Revenue Code to “[restore] free speech and religious liberty to churches and other nonprofits by allowing them to make political statements, so long as they [are] made in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities,” and so long as those organizations do not expend substantial funds engaging in political activity. While some churches may not wish to make political statements in church, it is NYCF’s belief that churches should make that decision themselves instead of having the decision made for them by the Internal Revenue Service.
Are you a pastor or ministry leader? If so, you can help restore free speech to all nonprofits—including churches and their leaders—through the Free Speech Fairness Act. Please consider joining a nationwide movement of pastors calling on Congress to pass the Free Speech Fairness Act and put an end to IRS intimidation and censorship. Visit PulpitFreedom.org today to read and sign a letter supporting the FSFA.