November 3, 2017

Deforming Tax Law & Churches

The new tax reform bill introduced by Republican congressional leaders includes many moral problems, including eliminating the adoption tax credit (so much for being pro-life) and actually raising taxes on some of the poorest working Americans (so much for compassionate conservatism).

But a provision I'm particularly troubled by is an effort to turn houses of worship into partisan Super PACs. President Donald Trump campaigned on overturning the IRS's political activity ban that prevents 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations from engaging in partisan politics. Unfortunately, the new tax bill seeks to remove that provision for religious groups, which would create a double-standard among nonprofits and place significant pressure on churches to open their pulpits and coffers for partisan campaign purposes.

Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, issued a good statement quickly criticizing that provision of the bill. At a breakfast sponsored by Churchnet just days earlier, Tyler had talked about current efforts to undermine the political activity ban (or "Johnson Amendment," as the provision's critics call it).


In the BJC statement on Thursday, Tyler put it well: "This tax bill will deform, not reform, the tax law that protects our houses of worship." 

"Under the current tax law, pastors speak truth to power and preach on moral issues, no matter how controversial," she added. "Pastors and people of faith know that there's nothing free about a pulpit that is bought and paid for by political campaign donations or beholden to partisan interests."

I hope the current tax bill is killed or significantly reformed. 

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