Rep. Hice Introduces Bill to Repeal Johnson Amendment

Rep. Jody Hice (R, GA-10) sent out a press release today stating that he and Rep. Steve Scalise (R, LA-01) have introduced the Free Speech Fairness Act (H.R. 781). The bill seeks to amend the United States tax code to “restore free speech for 501(c)(3) organizations including churches, nonprofits, and educational institutions, so long as they are (1) made in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities in carrying out its tax-exempt purpose, and (2) any expenditure related to this are de minimis.”

I am not a lawyer, but Merriam-Webster defines de minimis as: “lacking significance or importance : so minor as to merit disregard.”

Rep. Hice:

“Our Nation was built on the foundation that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are unalienable rights. For too long, the IRS has used the Johnson Amendment to silence and threaten religious institutions and charitable entities. As a minister who has experienced intimidation from the IRS firsthand, I know just how important it is to ensure that our churches and nonprofit organizations are allowed the same fundamental rights as every citizen of this great Nation. I’m proud that our legislation accomplishes just that, because America is stronger and better when all of our citizens are free to express their convictions. I am also heartened that President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to repealing Johnson at this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast and look forward to working with him to make repeal a reality.”

The text of the bill was not available at the time of this posting.

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George Chidi
George Chidi

Here is why the Johnson Amendment is in place.

An organization that is tax exempt, using its power for partisan purposes, can use its influence to direct federal spending to its own benefit, which then becomes tax exempt, further empowering it to direct resources …

… it’s a circle. It becomes a conduit for corruption. That’s why it was put in place to begin with.

Charlie
Charlie

You’re describing Planned Parenthood.

rickday
rickday

Except PP can actually accomplish good things in government and politics. All religion wants to do is change government to enforce their interpretation of Biblical Morality™.

One has a mission of reproductive health, the other a mission of noneducation and ignorance when it comes to anything below the belt and above the leg.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Or between the ears.

Matt
Matt

Well by that logic it’s describing *any* organization that gets federal funds: universities, hospitals, road contractors….

Lea Thrace
Lea Thrace

Do you support this Charlie?

xdog
xdog

It’s news to me that churches get Medicaid reimbursements.

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

Oh Great, Not-for-Profit-Citizens United.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I’ll try and go easy on Rep. Hice, it’s not easy being as dumb as he is. America is stronger and better when all of our citizens are free to express their convictions. Nothing in the Johnson Amendment prohibits our citizens from freely expressing their convictions. Pastors, rabbis, priests, and imams are free to be as vocal as they want to be (well maybe not imams). I’ve heard plenty of sermons where rabbis and priests do just that. The law simply asks that their churches, synagogues, mosques, non-profit organizations refrain from officially endorsing or opposing a candidate or providing money… Read more »

Jack Fitz
Jack Fitz

I’ll support this repeal, if at the same time you support ending tax-exempt status for religious institutions and non-profits.

Small-business owners shouldn’t subsidize the Church of Whats Happening or Planned Parenthood. Under the current system, they do.

Churches and Non-profits are already receiving tax-exempt revenue, if they want to spend it however they want, then pay property and income taxes. Done and done.

Lea Thrace
Lea Thrace

This I wholeheartedly agree with.

Matt
Matt

All right, fair enough. Sounds like a smart solution. Make it so.

bethebalance
bethebalance

lots of folks would like to do away with the tax exemption. but that last sentence confuses me. tax-exempt revenue means exemption,typically, from property and income taxes. the policy reason for maintaining tax exemption even if the nonprofit is granted free reign with political speech is that the organizations have valid issues they may even feel compelled to advocate for. it actually puts them on fair political footing with for-profits in that sense. the worst that could happen is that they become a front for political advocacy, like a 527. but 527s have tax exemption too. but if the bill… Read more »

Jack Fitz
Jack Fitz

Sorry I should’ve clarified the “revenue” portion. I meant it in the sense that individuals get to deduct charitable donations off of their personal income taxes. So the revenue that’s being taken in by churches/non-profits is already receiving favorable status from the IRS. I’m fine to leave that in place on the revenue standpoint. Charitable organizations, hospitals, schools, churches should get some favor ability on their revenue side. But if you want to repeal the Johnson Amendment, as Hice and his ilk do, then remove the tax-exemption on their spending side (property, advocacy, etc.) as well. And as for income-taxes… Read more »