I Wonder? The Johnson Amendment for MARCH 2017

 For the next few months I will be writing a series of newsletters that I am 

calling, “I Wonder?” I will be discussing a variety of current topics in an effort

to inform and provide a Godly perspective to you amid the jumble of slanted 

information that besets each of us every day. 

 In scripture God called out prophets, apostles and preachers to speak to the 

political and moral climate of their nation in order to bring about change in 

people’s heart. Our nation has employed a means by which it can impede and or 

silence God’s message to the people. The Johnson Amendment is a method by 

which our government quells God’s peoples’ ability to address sin and 

immorality in our nation. This has resulted in creating a slippery slope of 

unintended consequences that infringe on our constitutional rights regarding 

freedom of speech and worship. 

 The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code that prohibits 

all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political 

candidates (def. Wikipedia). The types of organizations most commonly listed 

under the 501(c)(3) are churches, charitable foundations and universities.

 I wonder? Do charitable foundations (like the Clinton Foundation) and 

various universities and their entities (like Berkley’s) endure being threatened 

with loss of their tax exempt status for their political involvement and activity in 

the same manner as churches and religious organizations?

 Background: Sen. Lyndon Johnson was an astute Texas politician running 

for re-election of the seat he held in U.S. Senate. Being very opinionated 

concerning racial issues he was receiving heated political pushback from 

African American churches. His politics were also upsetting to many in the 

evangelical white churches who wanted to replace him.

 Wishing to silence his opposition Johnson crafted an amendment to attach to 

the U.S. tax code in 1954. The amendment was quietly passed and most 

American churches have reluctantly abided it for the past 6 decades. That one 

action sealed Johnson’s political future. It allowed him to be re-elected as U.S. 

Senator which set the stage for him becoming the Vice President and then 

President of the USA.

 Implementation: The government did not seek to control biblical teaching 

from the pulpit until the issue surrounding abortion emerged upon America’s 

political horizon. As religious leaders preached against the abortion movement 

in America and its moral and religious ramifications (see Ex. 20:13; 21:22-23; 

Amos 1:13) according to God; the IRS determined a different set of rules 

applied. They rationalized that if a political candidate supported abortion and 

that if a church’s leadership told its congregants that abortion was morally 

wrong – the church was now engaged in opposing a political candidate and was 

in violation of the Johnson Amendment. As a result of intimidation and fear of 

reprisals many churches became silent on the issue and in a few years the 

Supreme Court legislated abortion as legal though most Americans considered it 

immoral and fundamentally wrong.

 The Johnson Amendment trumps my 1st Amendment rights: Believe it or 

not, but it is within the realm of possibility that if I express my opinion 

concerning political issues or candidates, as a private citizen in a personal blog 

(that is not in any way associated with the church) the IRS could take action 

against our church. Also the possibly exists that while in a private conversation 

in a public place like a restaurant the IRS might also consider that I am violating 

the Johnson Amendment and revoke our church’s tax exempt status. Why would 

the IRS do that? As the pastor I am the face our church and its official 

representative. As your pastor the IRS essentially forces me to forfeit my right to 

free speech as an individual. Voicing your support or opposition to any political 

candidate is a protected liberty. For me, as a pastor (and as a person of faith) the 

repeal of the Johnson Amendment represents the reinstatement of my personal 


 I wonder if the individuals in 1954 who passed the Johnson amendment

might have anticipated these far reaching, unintended consequences. Sadly, I

believe that it has fostered and even emboldened similar political tactics used 

today: For example, consider the decision to attach a hate speech amendment to 

H.R. 1913 which was solely intended as a $680B defense spending bill, nothing 

else. That hate speech amendment, if applied with the same broad measures as 

the Johnson Amendment has been applied would foster persecution of all 

Christians’ freedom to speak. “Some sources have even said that if a pastor 

were merely to read a biblical verse like Leviticus 20:13, she or he might be 

charged with a hate crime. (That verse defines some male homosexual behavior 

among the ancient Hebrews to be a capital crime, and requires the execution of 

both parties. The verse is ambiguous as to what type of same-sex behavior is 

involved.)” (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_hat20.htm). These are very 

real possibilities waiting to happen if we do nothing.

 The Bottom Line: The Johnson Amendment should be repealed for the

simple reason that it will allow the voice of moral opposition to speak freely, 

without fear of reprisal from the government, in order to identify the sins of our 

nation and to uphold the moral fabric that is its foundation. 

 The evidences abound by which those in government seek to usurp God’s 

moral authority and replace it with its own corrupt interpretation of 

righteousness. Without repeal, the government will continue to use it and other 

amendments as means to establish itself as the ultimate moral authority in our 


 I wonder when will truly see how detrimental the Johnson Amendment has 

been to us as a nation and how it has propelled us down this slippery slope 

which has developed into a black diamond ski run. J.G Butler says this, “Our 

problem is not what we cannot do but not doing what we can do.”


Pastor, Dave Rowser