Alabama Baptist, national Methodist, Episcopal groups urge Congress to keep politics out of churches

In Politics
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Voters waiting in line outside Little Indian Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Monrovia outside of Huntsville, Alabama as voter turnout was heavy Tuesday morning. (Bob Gathany/[email protected]) 

A group of 99 religious and denominational organizations are urging Congress to maintain laws that prevent churches and other tax-exempt non-profit groups from endorsing political candidates.

which includes the Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries and the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society,  this week to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and all members of Congress.

The letter addresses the “Johnson Amendment,” the 1954 IRS regulation that prohibits churches and other religious organizations from keeping their tax-exempt status if they endorse candidates, participate in partisan activities, or “directly or indirectly” become involved in a political campaign.

President Trump has  to allow faith leaders to “speak freely and without fear of retribution.”

In their letter, the faith leaders said changes to the Johnson Amendment could result in houses of worship becoming partisan political tools.

“Current law serves as a valuable safeguard for the integrity of our charitable sector and campaign finance system,” the group said. “The charitable sector, particularly houses of worship, should not become another cog in a political machine or another loophole in campaign finance laws.”

The religious groups pointed out that houses of worship can already host candidate forums and voter registration drives, help transport people to the polls and, with some restrictions, invite candidates to address their congregations. Allowing them to endorse or oppose candidates or use tax-exempt donations to contribute to campaigns should remain off limits, however.

“Houses of worship are spaces for members of religious communities to come together, not be divided along political lines; faith out to be a source of connection and community, not division and discord,” the letter states.

The groups signing the letter were:

African American Ministers in Action

Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Alliance of Baptists

American Baptist Churches USA

American Baptist Home Mission Societies

American Friends Service Committee

American Jewish Committee (AJC)

Anti-Defamation League

Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists

B’nai B’rith International

Baptist Fellowship Northeast

Baptist General Association of Virginia

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America ~ Bautistas por la Paz

Baptist Women in Ministry

Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

California Council of Churches IMPACT

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Central Conference of American Rabbis

Christian Life Commission

Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church

Churchnet, a ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri

Colorado Council of Churches

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Heartland

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Kentucky

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia

Disciples Center for Public Witness

Ecumenical Catholic Communion

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon

The Episcopal Church

Equal Partners in Faith

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches

Faith Action Network- Washington State

Faith in Public Life

Faith Voices Arkansas

Faithful America

Florida Council of Churches

Franciscan Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.

Hindu American Foundation

Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas

Interfaith Alliance

International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

Islamic Networks Group

Islamic Society of North America

Jewish Community Relations Council, Greater Boston

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Jewish Women International

Kentucky Council of Churches

Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Baptist Convention of America

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

National Sikh Campaign

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

New Baptist Covenant

North Carolina Council of Churches

Oklahoma Conference of Churches

Pastors for Oklahoma Kids

Pastors for Texas Children

Pax Christi, Montgomery County, MD chapters

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office of Public Witness

Progressive National Baptist Convention

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly

Religions for Peace USA

Religious Institute

Rhode Island State Council of Churches

Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America

South Carolina Christian Action Council

South Dakota Faith in Public Life

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Texas Baptists Committed

Texas Faith Network

Texas Impact

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

Virginia Council of Churches

Women of Reform Judaism

Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)



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