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Fr. Pavone supports House effort to repeal Johnson Amendment


Priests for Life


NEW YORK -- Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, issued the following statement in support of a bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would repeal the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prevents clergy from endorsing political candidates.
“I have long been opposed to the unnecessary and vague Johnson Amendment,” Father Pavone said. “It was introduced by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson as a way to silence his opponents in a contested race. It was not intended to silence America’s moral conscience, and it is not even clear that Johnson ever intended it to apply to churches. But that’s what it has done. I applaud this effort to repeal it. It is long overdue.”
In his book Abolishing Abortion (Nelson Books, 2015), Father Pavone explained that in 1954, when Johnson was seeking re-election as a U.S. Senator from Texas, two secular charitable groups that were a particular thorn in his side were supporting his opponent. Using his position as the Senate Majority Leader, he added an amendment to a tax bill that made illegal what, up until then, had always been legal: Campaign involvement by not-for-profit organizations. The Johnson Amendment was not discussed or debated on the Senate floor, which is symbolic of its impact.
“The measure has been used by the Internal Revenue Service for more than 60 years to mute the voices of untold numbers of Americans,” Father Pavone said. “Yet the Supreme Court itself has asserted that the protection of citizens to advocate for particular causes reflects our ‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open’ (New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 1964.). In short, freedom should reign.”
H.R. 6198, the Free Speech Fairness Act of 2016, was introduced Wednesday by Rep. Jody Hice, (R-Georgia), who said during a press conference that “I have been involved in this battle for close to 10 years as a pastor. When government acts as a gatekeeper of free speech and what free speech ought to be, then it has abridged our free speech rights.”
Father Pavone agreed: The chilling effect of the Johnson Amendment goes far beyond keeping churches from endorsing candidates. Churches become afraid even to appear to favor or discredit political parties or candidates or even positions. They censor themselves even when their speech would clearly not violate the law. It’s time for this self-censorship to end and for the Johnson Amendment to be consigned to history.”
Priests for Life is the nation's largest Catholic pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia. For more information, visit
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Mike says:
10/3/2016 10:18:07 AM
The tax free non profit status of the Johnson Amendment was contingent on non political activity by those non profits. If non profits would like to be involved in politics they should eschew their tax free status and get taxed. Congress has the power to tax as long as the tax is not discriminatory or as a form of retribution.


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