Last night congressional leaders released the language of the omnibus spending bill expected to be voted on this week. The legislation does not include provisions that would have gutted the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches and other nonprofits from directly engaging in electoral activity, despite sustained efforts by some Republican members and right-wing activists to have such provisions inserted. People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker issued the following statement:
“The rejection of this effort to gut the Johnson Amendment is a win for the First Amendment and for anyone concerned about the flood of big money into our elections. Our Constitution was designed to enable a robust, diverse religious life in the United States. Gutting the Johnson Amendment would have turned churches into slush funds for politicians and wealthy donors who want to pour even more secret money into our elections; that would be a huge blow not just to the separation of church and state, but also to the health of our democracy as well as our nation’s civic and religious life as a whole.
“As always, churches and houses of worship are free to share their views on pressing social issues, and religious leaders are welcome to endorse candidates in elections individually like every other American. Those are bedrock constitutional rights, and they’re as important and as secure today as they’ve ever been. The continuation of the Johnson Amendment is something to celebrate.
“Unfortunately, it’s clear that Republicans also saw this legislation as an opportunity to push other divisive and dangerous policy ideas that continue to hand more power to giant corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of ordinary Americans. These efforts continue to reshape the playing field to ensure that in Washington deep pocketed donors are treated one way, and the rest of us are treated another.”
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.