Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Walter Jones and Emanuel Cleaver introduced H.R. 3600, a bill that would weaken campaign finance laws, sabotage the separation of church and state, and increase the federal budget deficit, all in one ill-conceived sweeping action.
H.R. 3600 would eliminate the 1954 Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment made it illegal for organizations that accept tax-exempt donations from acting as campaign organizations on behalf of candidates for public office. Under the Johnson Amendment, it remains legal for churches and charitable organizations to campaign for political candidates. They simply cannot claim tax-exempt status and do so at the same time.
The Johnson Amendment exists in order to prevent organizations from using government tax exemptions to funnel money into partisan political campaigns. It’s a simple way to prevent the federal government from subsidizing partisan campaigns.
It’s also a means of maintaining the separation of church and state. Churches are supposed to be religious organizations, not money laundering operations and political powerhouses.
If churches are allowed to use tax-exempt donations to fund political campaigns, then they’ll enter the same corrupt sphere that corporations currently exist in. The biggest churches will use their money to gain influence in Washington D.C., rather than to help people in need or provide religious services. Funds from the collection plate will be siphoned off into campaign coffers, so that church leaders can make friends in high places.
If H.R. 3600 succeeds, political candidates and political parties will be able to convert churches and charities into little more than campaign tools. Power brokers will be able to make donations to campaigns for political office through churches, and then to write off these campaign donations on their taxes. New corrupt relationships forged by financial transactions between churches and politicians will encourage radical schemes to increase government interference in religious matters, in order to give special advantage to well-connected preachers.
If this legislation proceeds, the government will be giving special tax breaks to reward spending on political campaigns. The new arrangement would create a virtual subsidy for political campaign activities.
This new subsidy would create a new drain on the federal budget, making deficits even higher at the same time that Medicare and education are being slashed. Social services to people in need will be reduced if H.R. 3600 is passed into law.
H.R. 3600 benefits two small groups of people: Politicians, and greedy religious leaders who want to use their churches as platforms for personal ambition. All other Americans, whether they are religious or not, will suffer.