I can’t blame you. Kimmy’s hilarious, and it’s been exhausting trying to keep up with everything in the news. But, as boring as the Johnson Amendment is, it has served our community well for over 60 years, and now it is being threatened. Our sector and the people we serve could be seriously screwed if we don’t do something now. So I am asking you to learn about this issue and to sign this letter if you haven’t. Actually, these adorable puppies are asking you to learn about this issue and to sign the letter. Do you want to let these puppies down? I didn’t think so.
What the heck IS the Johnson Amendment?
Givevoice.org lays out everything you need to know, but I’ll try to simplify things down. OK, youknow how nonprofits aren’t allowed to endorse political candidates? Well, that’s because of the Johnson Amendment. This Amendment, named after then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, prevents nonprofits from endorsing candidates or using funding to finance political campaigns. It’s kept us above the partisan fray so that we can all, no matter our political affiliations, work together to address injustice.
And now it’s being threatened. President Trump has said on numerous occasions that he wants to repeal the Johnson Amendment. Right now, there’s a rider to a spending bill that would make it much harder for the IRS to investigate religious institutions when they do engage in partisan politics in violation of the Johnson Amendment. You can learn more about why this rider is no good, very bad. But basically, if it passes, it would seriously weaken the Johnson Amendment, paving the way for its repeal, and causing our sector to be divisive and partisan.
What would happen if the Johnson Amendment were gone?
Imagine these horrifying scenarios if nonprofits were suddenly legally able to endorse political candidates (Thanks to colleagues at National Council of Nonprofits for coming up with most of these scenarios; I added a few)
- Nonprofits being polarized into “Democratic nonprofits” and “Republican nonprofits.”
Maybe a few “Libertarian nonprofits”?
- Nonprofit staff getting hounded by political candidates and their operatives who hope to sway nonprofits to endorse them.
- Boards of directors being torn apart over which candidates their nonprofit should endorse.
- Donors trying to sway nonprofits to endorse their friends, family members, or colleagues who are running for office, using their donations as a subtle or not-so-subtle means of persuasion
- Other donors becoming suspicious and leery of nonprofits, not sure if their donations are going to the mission, or for political purposes
- Larger nonprofits getting more funding and influence as political candidates “buy” their
brand in the form of endorsements.
- Services for community members becoming crappier and crappier over time as partisanship taints our programs
- Nonprofits now taking the political viewpoints of potential hires into consideration toensure there is a “cultural fit.”
- Churches becoming a means to funnel political funds, since churches—unlike political organizations—don’t have to disclose who their donors are
- The public’s trust in our sector vanishing as nonprofits end up becoming as divisive and partisan as the rest of society,
Who is opposed to 501c3s being partisan?
Practically everyone in our sector! According to these articles compiled by Washington Nonprofits
- one hundred religious denominations and organizations,
- more than 3,000 religious leaders,
- more than 4,800 charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations,
- 89 percent of evangelical pastors,
- 72 percent of American voters
OK, what should my organization and I do?
- Sign this Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship. Do it this week. Before August 4th.
- Call your legislators and tell them to protect the Johnson Amendment and to ensure nonprofits remain nonpartisan
- Talk about this issue on social media. Sample Tweet: #Nonprofits are effective because they focus on #CommunityNotCandidates. Maintain #JohnsonAmendment http://bit.ly/2nV6SQI
- And share this post. If not for the content, then at least because everyone could use more pictures of puppies in their lives
Thanks everyone. You’re awesome. These puppies think you’re amazing. And this kitten too.
(Seriously, please sign that letter).
Support the maintenance of this website by buying NWB (Now NAF) t-shirts and mugs and other stuff.
Make Mondays suck a little less. Get a notice each Monday morning when a new post arrives. Subscribe to NAF by scrolling to the top right of this page (maybe scroll down a little) and enter in your email address (If you’re on the phone, it may be at the bottom). Also, join the NAF Facebook community for daily hilarity.
Also, join Nonprofit Happy Hour, a peer support group on Facebook, and if you are an ED/CEO, join ED Happy Hour. These are great forums for when you have a problem and want to get advice from colleagues, or you just want to share pictures of unicorns. Check them out.
Donate, or give a grant, to Vu’s organization, Rainier Valley Corps, which has the mission of bringing more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector and getting diverse communities to work together to address systemic issues.