Exclusive–Rep. Kevin Brady: Johnson Amendment Repeal Frees Churches from Political Targeting

A parishioner at First Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American congregation, leaves after a worship service in Macon, Ga., on Sunday, July 10, 2016. There are two First Baptist Churches in Macon _ one black and one white. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
AP/Branden Camp

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee told Breitbart News he supports President Donald Trump’s promise to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a gag rule on certain non-profit and religious entities tying their non-profit status to their abstaining from political speech.

“Churches across America want to be free to practice their faith without worrying about Washington targeting their religious freedom,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R.-Texas), who succeeded Speaker Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) leading the powerful panel.

“As House Republicans advance pro-growth tax reform, I intend to include repealing the damaging effects of the Johnson amendment,” said Brady, whose committee is in the midst of the most significant overhaul of the federal tax code since 1986.

The Johnson Amendment was incorporated into the federal tax code in 1954 by future president Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D.-Texas).

Throughout his campaign for the White House, Trump called for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, and it was critical to his winning the support of Evangelical Christians and religious broadcasters.

At the Feb. 2 National Prayer Breakfast, the president renewed his call for Congress to remove the gag. He said:

It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty.” Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why 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. I will do that — remember.

The bill calling for repeal was filed Feb.1 by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R.-La.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R.-Ga.), addressing the restrictions on 501(c)(3) organizations including churches, nonprofits, and educational institutions.

“Our nation was built on the foundation that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are unalienable rights,” said Hice.

“As a minister who has experienced intimidation from the IRS firsthand, I know just how important it is to ensure that our churches and nonprofit organizations are allowed the same fundamental rights as every citizen of this great nation,” he said. “For too long, the IRS has used the Johnson Amendment to silence and threaten religious institutions and charitable entities.”

The companion bill in the Senate, S.264, was introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R.-Okla.).


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