Congress just might blow another golden opportunity. This time it is a simple task that atheists and believers can agree upon: the defense of free speech, regardless of where that speech is being conducted. The Johnson Amendment is thirty words long. It is “vengeance legislation” passed by an irate Senator Lyndon Johnson to pay back a non-profit group that refused to support Johnson. So the Senator snuck a clause into the IRS code back in 1954 to restrict the rights of non-profits to speak out on issues surrounding elections. The IRS expanded the vengeance bill to foster their own vendetta against free speech through “rulings” and “opinions”. Today the Johnson Amendment is feared by non-profits, teachers, preachers, accountants, and lawyers alike. No one wants to get crosswise with the IRS and lose their tax-exempt status so many simply impose a rule of silence. Free speech is not chilled – it is frozen, especially among the religious community.
That is not what the radical Progressive media and think tank world will tell you. They will tell you that churches are swinging from the political chandeliers and without IRS restrictions they will all be taken over by the Republican Party. We have worked in and with churches for almost 40 years. The Progressive Left is wrong.
So the Republican Congress has a chance to simply erase the thirty words of vengeance and release their stranglehold on the First Amendment. They have the votes to do it and have made promises to end the vengeance. Will they now find the courage to keep their promise?
Currently language exists in HR 1 dealing with the Johnson Amendment. It is not a repeal. It is a disaster. You can read our analysis of the current language at the top of the APR headline section. Now would be a great time to call you House member and Senators and tell them to “Erase Johnson’s 30 mean words and replace them with freedom.” No new words are necessary. The First Amendment will do.