Congress’ upcoming omnibus appropriations bill may include a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which protects nonprofit nonpartisanship. This repeal is one of many riders being attached to this “must pass” legislation before the current temporary spending authority expires on March 23.

The longstanding tax provision states that in exchange for tax-exempt status, a charitable nonprofit, foundation or religious organization may “not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

Since 1954, that language has served to protect charitable nonprofits, foundations, churches and the donating public by ensuring that these organizations are dedicated solely to the public good.

Members of the U.S. Congress. The author hopes they won’t touch the Johnson Amendment. Flickr

Opponents of the Johnson Amendment would like to see this law protecting nonprofit nonpartisanship go away. This would give way to nonprofit entities being used as vehicles for the flow-through of political contributions, muddying the missions of charitable nonprofits, churches and foundations, and eroding public trust in the vital community benefit work that we do.

Imagine boardroom conversations being dedicated to politicking instead of advancing the mission, or donors delaying a gift until the organization publicly endorses their candidate of choice, plunging nonprofits directly into the political divide.

Nonprofits were created to serve communities, not politicians.

Efforts to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment were reflected in earlier versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but the effort failed in the face of diverse opposition across the nation. That opposition included over 100 nonprofits from across the state of Hawaii that joined with more than 5,000 nonprofits across the country to sign a community action letter that called for protecting the nonpartisanship of the third sector.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation has stated implicit support for protecting the Johnson Amendment, and we look to their continued representation of these views on our behalf. Going forward, they and we must remain vigilant in ensuring that no other repeal efforts show up in future legislation.

Nonprofits were created to serve communities, not politicians. Let’s keep it that way.

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