Legislators have proposed a bill that would allow pastors to make political statements from the pulpit without losing their church’s tax-exempt status as against the Johnson amendment.
The bill, known as the “Free Speech Fairness Act” or H.R. 6195, was introduced by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. and Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga.
The introduction of the bill comes right before “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” on Oct. 2.
Because of the Johnson amendment, enacted in 1954, many pastors are afraid of making political statements or endorsing political candidates because they fear the IRS will strip their churches of their tax-exempt status.
The new bill would dispel that fear.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made it a speaking point of his campaign that he supports repealing the Johnson amendment.
“We’re going to get rid of that horrible Johnson amendment and we’re going to let evangelicals, we’re going to let Christians and Jews and people of religion talk without being afraid to talk,” Trump said in July, as previously reported by ChristianHeadlines.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Scalise stated, “For decades now, the Johnson Amendment has limited the ability for a lot of churches and religious organizations and nonprofits to express their views and to exercise their free speech rights and exercise the religious liberty that is one of the hallmarks of our Constitution.”
‘Will the next president support legislation like this and restore religious freedom or are they going to continue the policies that we’ve seen under Barack Obama of aggressively attacking religious freedom?'” Scalise continued. “As [Congress is] getting ready to leave, you are going to see the presidential campaign completely take over the public discourse and hopefully this becomes part of that discussion.”