Press Release – Executive Order on Johnson Amendment Chips Away at Separation of Church and State


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 4, 2017

CONTACT: Chase Thomas | Alliance for a Better Utah

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Salt Lake City, UT – Earlier today, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order discouraging the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment is a law that prohibits non-profit religious organizations from participating directly or indirectly in political campaigns.

“The Johnson Amendment is one of the pillars supporting the principle of separation of church of state enshrined in our Constitution,” said Chase Thomas, Better Utah’s policy and advocacy counsel. “To see this First Amendment protection being chipped away in this manner is extremely concerning.”

Last month, President Donald J. Trump promised those at the National Prayer Breakfast to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment has acted to protect the integrity of charities and places of worship — ensuring that charitable giving is not used for political purposes. Without this rule, these entities could be susceptible to being used as funnels for the funding of elections. Repealing the Johnson Amendment would essentially build a bridge between our nation’s historic separation of church and state.

“Although many Americans share a belief in religion or spirituality, from the beginning of our nation, our government has recognized both the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state,” continued Thomas. “The tax code uses charitable deductions to encourage philanthropic giving but it also denies that preferential treatment to those who wish to advocate in a partisan manner. Organizations have the choice to avoid partisan activities and avail themselves of the tax benefits of that choice or to engage in partisan activities and forego the benefit of charitable deductions.

“We believe this is a reasonable choice and one that is embodied in the Johnson Amendment. We urge President Trump to reconsider this executive order and we urge Utah’s congressional delegation to oppose this action.”

Earlier this year, the Alliance for a Better Utah joined 86 other organizations in signing a letter urging President Trump to oppose repealing the Johnson Amendment. Read the letter here:

The Alliance for a Better Utah is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that does not receive the benefit of tax-deductible contributions. Our affiliated organization, the ABU Education Fund, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that does receive tax-deductible contributions pursuant to the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.

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