GOP chairman: Tax reform will repeal limit on church political activity

Greg Nash

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said Friday that a House Republican tax reform bill will include repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which bars tax-exempt churches and other charities from endorsing political candidates.

“Places of worship across America need to be free to practice their faith without worrying about Washington or the IRS targeting their religious freedom,” he said at the Conservative Political Action Conference, to cheers from the audience.

“So in our Republican tax reform, we’re going to repeal the damaging effects of the Johnson Amendment once and for all.”

{mosads}Brady’s comments are in line with remarks that President Trump has made in the past. Trump spoke about repealing the Johnson Amendment during his presidential campaign and reiterated that pledge during the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month. 

“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” Trump said.

Several GOP lawmakers have also introduced legislation in the House and Senate to do away with the amendment.

But defenders of the Johnson Amendment argue that the provision helps to further separation of church and state and that repeal would lead to more “dark money” in politics. They also note that the current restriction on political endorsements applies to all nonprofits with tax-exempt status as 501(c)(3) organizations, and not just churches.

Brady is currently working on a tax reform bill based on a blueprint that House Republicans released in June. The plan would lower tax rates for individuals and businesses and do away with a number of existing tax breaks. The blueprint also contains a provision, known as border adjustability, that would tax imports and exempt exports and has drawn concerns from businesses and a number of GOP senators.

The Texas Republican defended border adjustability, pointing to a map that showed that most other countries already exempt exports and tax imports.

“American workers are just getting the shaft. Well, not anymore,” he said.

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