Last October the Illinois Family Institute brought attention to the “Free Speech Fairness Act.” Now faith leaders from around the country, including IFI’s executive director David E. Smith, are signing a letter addressed to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling for the passage of the bill. This letter was delivered earlier this week.
Here is the opening paragraph of the letter:
We, the undersigned, representing hundreds of thousands of Americans, want to thank you for your commitment to preserving the rights secured in the First Amendment of the Constitution, specifically the rights to freedom of religion and speech. Unfortunately, since its passage, the Johnson Amendment has effectively squelched both of those rights in the context of activities that could be construed by the IRS as on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for public office. That is why we support the Free Speech Fairness Act of 2016 (H.R. 781, “Fairness Act”), introduced by Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Representative Jody Hice (R-Ga.) to protect the speech and religious freedom rights of 501(c)(3) organizations and their leaders. We encourage you to prioritize hearings and votes on this important bill.
A lot has been written about the existing and growing threats to religious liberty for the past couple of years, and the infamous “Johnson Amendment” even became an issue during the presidential campaign.
H.R. 781 would restrict enforcement of the Johnson Amendment against churches and other non-profit groups for whom the law was never intended. You can find more information about that legislation by clicking here, as well as a great deal more information on the Johnson Amendment here.
In addition, both the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom have information posted outlining the details of the legislation and why it is needed. FRC has published a one-page outline that answers the following questions:
- What Does the Bill Do?
- Why is the Bill Needed?
- What’s The Background on the Johnson Amendment?
- Has the IRS Gone After Nonprofits For Speaking Out On Political Issues?
- Who Supports the Bill or the Policies Represented in the Bill?
At their website, the Alliance Defending Freedom lists “5 Things to Know about the New Johnson Amendment Fix“:
- The bill fixes but does not repeal the Johnson Amendment.
- The bill applies to all 501(c)(3) entities, not just churches.
- The bill does not turn churches and charities into political action committees.
- The bill is constitutionally sound.
- The bill is the first step in getting Congress to fix what it created in 1954.
Both FRC and ADF have videos posted that also outline the facts — here is ADF’s 3-minute video:
So many moral issues in the political arena must be addressed by church leaders inside the church – and not just by Christians outside the church. We must reclaim our God-given First Amendment right of free speech. It doesn’t just belong to those on one side of the debate.
Take ACTION: Click HERE to send a message to your U.S. Representative to ask him/her to support or even co-sponsor this legislation. Speak up for free speech by telling them you want the Johnson Amendment repealed. Tell them they can start the process by cosponsoring H.R. 781, the Free Speech Fairness Act.
As of this writing, H.R. 781 has 57 Republican co-sponsors, including Illinois’ U.S. Representatives Randy Hultgren (Campton Hills) and John Shimkus (Effingham).