Things constantly get slipped into legislative packages. This time, the newest GOP tax bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, the 1954 tax code provision that prohibits nonprofit organizations (officially designated 501(c)(3)) from endorsing/opposing candidates or attempting to influence legislation.
That seems fair. Churches — by far the most numerous among 501(c)(3)s — don’t pay taxes. For that generous concession, they can encourage voter registration, but otherwise can’t play in the political arena. Senate Republicans want to change that.
It’s a change we should all oppose. Money donated and deducted for charitable purposes shouldn’t be diverted to political causes/candidates. In our secular democracy — where people of all and no faiths live and work together — no law should make it easier for any religious organization to impose its doctrine on the whole of society. Repealing the Johnson Amendment will politicize the pulpit. Legislation affecting people’s very lives — like outlawing abortion or excluding contraception from insurance policies — grows more likely.
I remember attending Catholic school and joking about the Pope’s position on the use of contraception — all contraception is forbidden to Catholics — and popes and priests are celibate. So we’d dismiss the papal prohibition with a single irreverent comment. “If you don’t play the game, your Holiness, you don’t make the rules.”
That should go for taxes, too. If you want to play the political game, then ante up with taxes. Quid pro quo. If you want the quo, you’ve got to pay the quid.
Better yet, don’t repeal the Johnson Amendment.
John R. Scannell,