Rep. Jody Hice Fights to Protect Pastors' Rights to Endorse Candidates
(Christian Post) - House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., introduced legislation Wednesday that would reinstate pastors' and churches' rights to speak freely on political matters and would allay major religious liberty and free speech concerns caused by the Johnson Amendment.
As thousands of pastors across the nation get ready to partake in the annual "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" on Oct. 2, Scalise and Rep. Jody Hice, R- Ga., introduced the "Free Speech Fairness Act," which would eliminate the longstanding threat of churches and nonprofit organizations being stripped of their tax-exempt statuses or fined if they speak publicly about public policy or endorse candidates for public office
The bill, also known as H.R. 6195, comes as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has drawn the appeal of social conservatives and evangelicals by vowing to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which was passed in 1954 and has allowed the IRS to intimidate and censor churches and other nonprofit organizations.
Hice, who is also a Southern Baptist pastor, explained that the simple threat of IRS enforcement of the Johnson Amendment causes churches and pastors to essentially "self-censor" themselves.
"I would just like to say as a pastor from my personal experience, just the threat of the IRS potentially taking away tax-exempt status is enough to cause pastors and nonprofits to self-censor themselves right out of the game," Hice said. "That is what has taken place. Every election cycle, I would receive letters and great threats and intimidations about how we could be facing a potential lawsuit or removal of our tax-exempt status. Just about every church receives those kinds of letters every election cycle."