Johnson amendment banning politicking by houses of worship survives repeal bid

JTA

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A decades-old ban on houses of worship directly involving themselves in elections has survived a repeal bid by House Republican leaders.

In a move that no doubt will be welcomed by a broad spectrum of Jewish groups, the Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the repeal effort did not belong in the tax reform bill because it was not germane to tax policy. A conference committee of the House of Representatives and Senate is reconciling the respective tax reform bills of the two bodies. The Senate bill did not repeal the Johnson amendment.

The amendment, named for Lyndon Johnson when he was a Senate leader, was passed in the 1950s. It removes tax-exempt status from religious organizations that directly participate in political activity. President Donald Trump has vowed to repeal it.

Jewish groups from Reform to Orthodox, and including Jewish civil rights groups, have opposed the removal, saying it would unnecessarily politicize the pulpit.

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“This important legislation, appropriately restricting religious and other non-profit groups from supporting or opposing political candidates, has worked well for more than six decades,” Richard Foltin, the American Jewish Committee’s director of national and legislative affairs, said in a statement. “The effort to fix what is not broken was unnecessary and wrong.”

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