GOP bill would ease enforcement of political activity by churches

GOP bill would ease enforcement of political activity by churches

House Republicans added a provision to a spending bill that would bar funds for the IRS to enforce the law prohibiting churches and other nonprofits from endorsing political candidates.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government approved the spending measure, which funds the Treasury Department, Judiciary and other agencies, on Thursday. 

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"None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Internal Revenue Service to make a determination that a church, an integrated auxiliary of a church, or a convention or association of churches is not exempt from taxation for participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office unless," the provision reads.

The provision is among several designed to "address underperformance and previous poor management and decision-making at the IRS," according to a House Appropriations Committee release.

The IRS is among the federal agencies hit the hardest by the spending cuts laid out in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. Under the proposed cuts, the IRS would see $149 million drop in its budget.

The overall spending bill totals about $20.23 billion — $1.28 billion less than current level spending and $2.48 billion below what the White House requested for those departments. 

The IRS restriction comes more than a month after Trump signed an executive order easing enforcement of a tax code provision that prohibits churches and religious organizations from backing or opposing political candidates and parties.

Religious groups have long claimed that the tax code provision, known as the Johnson Amendment, violates their First Amendment rights to free speech.