December 8, 2017
To: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and all members of the United States Congress
As leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we are opposed to the proposal in the current version of the tax bill before Congress to revoke the Johnson Amendment. We believe that allowing religious nonprofits to engage in electoral politics would politicize religious nonprofits in a way that will do irreparable harm to our congregations and ministries. All people have a vested interest in preserving the independence and nonpartisanship of the charitable and philanthropic sectors.
Nonpartisanship is a cornerstone principle that has strengthened the public’s trust of the charitable community, one of the few places we can come together as a society around shared values of service. And nonpartisan credibility is critical to the ability of 501(c)(3) organizations to work with elected officials of all parties at the local, state, and federal levels to address community needs.
The House version of the tax reform bill contains Section 5201, which would weaken the Johnson Amendment and would radically change the longstanding, vital protection for nonprofit nonpartisanship:
- Section 5201 would allow political operatives to pressure organizations to endorse or oppose candidates.
- It would allow donors to exert pressure by giving or threatening to withhold charitable contributions to force the organization to endorse or oppose candidates the donors prefer.
- The proposed change would also make political donations – for the first time ever – tax-deductible when funneled through charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations.
We strongly urge you to block this section from passage in the final version of the tax bill and allow us to maintain our historic neutral status as we work to bring resources to bear on issues of shared concern.
Rev. Teresa Hord Owens
General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
Rev. Dr. Todd A. Adams
President, Pension Fund of the Christian Church
Mark Anderson, MSW
President, National Benevolent Association
Rev. Gilberto Collazo
President, Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation
Rev. Dr. Patricia Donahoo
Executive Director, Disciples Women
Rev. Chris Dorsey
President, Higher Education and Leadership Ministries
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
President, Division of Overseas Ministries/Co-Executive of Global Ministries
Rev. Gary Kidwell
President, Christian Church Foundation
Rev. Sotello Long
President, Disciples Home Missions
Rev. Dr. Rick Lowery
President, Disciples of Christ Historical Society
President, Christian Board of Publication
President, Disciples Church Extension Fund
Rev. Lori Tapia
Executive Pastor, Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries
Rev. Paul Tche
President, Council on Christian Unity