A bill from the Republican led House Appropriations subcommittee added a provision to a Treasury Department funding bill to deny money to the IRS for enforcing a law that prevents churches and nonprofits from backing political candidates. Republicans claim the law is enforced unevenly which creates uncertainty for religious leaders. Democrats have criticized the measure as too close to mixing church and state. Other criticisms include the possibility of churches using their tax-free status to funnel money to candidates.
In April, 4500 nonprofit groups signed a letter to congressional leaders asking them to preserve the Johnson Amendment. The law prevents tax-exempt charitable organizations, which include churches, from participating in any political campaign to support or oppose a candidate, either directly or indirectly. The law does not prevent religious groups from voicing an opinion on public policy or organizing to benefit a position in a campaign.
The funding bill would specifically forbid the IRS from spending money to enforce the law against “a church, or a convention, or an association of churches,” unless the IRS commissioner notifies Congress and approves the spending. Critics also pointed out that the bill does not mention other types of nonprofits, nor other religious groups, such as synagogues or mosques.Source: AP, Chicago Tribune