Last week, the Free Speech Fairness Act was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate. The legislation to repeal the Johnson Amendment’s censorship of 501(c)3 employees, including religious leaders, and restore their First Amendment rights.
Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom has been actively seeking to end the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment against churches since 2008.
Christiana Holcomb, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, issued a statement in support of the Act: “Pastors should be free to apply biblical teachings to all areas of life—without edits, audits, or other interference from the IRS. By removing the threat of an IRS investigation and fines, based simply on what a pastor might say from the pulpit, this bill brings the law in line with the First Amendment. It fixes a restriction enacted in 1954 that was never intended to affect churches but has been used to intimidate and silence them ever since. The government can’t base any tax exemption on a requirement that a church or any other non-profit organization self-censor and surrender their constitutionally protected freedom.”
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, Congressmen Jody Hice and Mike Johnson and Senator James Lankford reintroduced the Act.
“For decades, the Johnson Amendment has encroached on communities of faith and limited the constitutional, inalienable rights to the free speech of our religious leaders,”said Congressman Hice in a press release. “As a pastor for more than 20 years, I witnessed firsthand the chilling effects that this IRS provision has had on our houses of worship and charitable organizations through intrusive IRS audits, steep fines, and even threats against a church’s tax-exempt status. Simply put, our First Amendment rights shouldn’t be a bargaining chip in exchange for tax-exempt status, and it’s long past time that we repeal this deeply flawed policy. I’m honored to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Free Speech Fairness Act to restore the rights of every American to express their beliefs – regardless of whether or not they’ve passed through the church doors.”