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Action Alert: Threat to Nonprofit Nonpartisanship Advances

by Jennifer Gray

House Committee Votes to Politicize Nonprofits

Nonpartisanship–the longstanding legal protection (known as the Johnson Amendment) which allows 501(c)(3) nonprofits to speak out on issues of the day and advocate on legislation, but keeps us away from the divisiveness of supporting or opposing candidates for office–is under imminent threat in Congress. Each of us needs to take action to protect our organizations from the damaging influence of partisanship.

ACTION: Please consider signing your organization onto the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship now.

Background

Earlier this month, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill for fiscal year 2018 that includes an extraneous rider (Section 116) that would essentially give churches and their auxiliaries a free pass for violating the law that prevents charitable nonprofits, including churches, and foundations from endorsing or opposing candidates or diverting nonprofit assets to fund political campaigns. If enacted, the provision would damage public trust in all charitable nonprofits as one segment of the community, perhaps even just a few churches, invite partisan politics into the sector. Learn more about the rider here.

The rider approved on the appropriations bill and several other legislative challenges seek to weaken or repeal the Johnson Amendment that protects all 501(c)(3) organizations from being polarized and diverted from their missions by the pressures of partisan politics. Those interests who want to change the long-standing law seek to politicize charitable organizations and capitalize on the public trust that charitable organizations have earned over years of solving problems in communities in large part because they are free from partisan influences. The broad nonprofit community opposes changes to the Johnson Amendment, as expressed by nearly one hundred religious denominations and organizations, more than 3,000 religious leaders89 percent of evangelical pastors, more than 4,800 charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations, and 72 percent of American voters.

Nonprofits are safe spaces in our communities, designed to be above the political fray. Preventing the application of party labels allows us to focus on solving problems, helping our neighbors, and enriching our communities. Nonpartisan credibility is critical to the ability of 501(c)(3) organizations to work with elected officials of all parties at the local, state, and federal levels to address community needs. Keeping this protection in place is essential to nonprofit missions.

TAKE ACTION

The Maine Association of Nonprofits has proudly signed onto the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship. This letter was delivered to Members of Congress before the President issued an Executive Order on the Johnson Amendment and before the House Appropriations Committee approved the damaging rider that blocks enforcement for some nonprofits.

The letter is once again open for signatures in order to show Representatives and Senators that charitable nonprofits, foundations, and our many supporters are united in opposition to efforts to politicize our community.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Sign your organization onto the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship … AND
  • Share the letter broadly with your board members, your colleagues at other organizations, and others in your networks so they can join in this vital effort to preserve the protections in current law.

Contact members of Maine’s congressional delegation:

  • Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (207-774-5019 or email) is on the House Appropriations Committee and voted against the rider in committee. Thank her for voting against the rider and ask her to continue to oppose such efforts.
  • Thank Senator Angus King (207-883-1588 or email) for being on our side and urge him to continue to oppose such efforts.
  • Ask Senator Susan Collins (207-945-0417 or email) and Congressman Bruce Poliquin (207-784-0768 or email) to oppose these efforts.

Together, we can protect nonprofit missions from the rancor of partisan politics.

2 thoughts on “Action Alert: Threat to Nonprofit Nonpartisanship Advances

Jessie Delaney-Edwards says:

I would like to add my name to the many concerned citizens who care about the integrity of non-profit organizations, not to mention the separation of church and state, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Americans are pretty disgusted by political end runs around constitutional law to line their already deep pockets. Mid-terms are coming so, try to refrain from egregious and blatant corruption and greed.

Jo Ann Myers says:

All non-profits, regardless of mission, must be able to be non-partisan in order to serve their communities. Consider a church – who in the church would decides which candidate to support? A priest, the pope? I am active in an farmer non-profit organization. Some of our members are Republicans, some are Democrats, some are Independents and some have no religious affiliation. It would be destructive to our organization to set the stage for partisan politics. That is not what our organization is all about.

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