Political Endorsements of 20 Churches Violated Federal Tax Law, Experts Say

The partisan politics by churches in Texas and other states prompted two entities to claim that the former practically violated federal tax law.

According to a Fox4 Beaumont report, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica discovered no less than 20 instances of alleged violation of the Johnson Amendment. 

How the Alleged Violations Occurred

The news website disclosed the findings of the newspaper and the Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit online newsroom. The joint investigation revealed alleged violations of 20 churches when they intervened in their chosen candidates’ political campaigns.

The findings mentioned potential violations of the Johnson Amendment. This 1954-era law prohibits tax-exempt entities like churches from engaging in political activities.

The Middle Tennesse State University website explained that the said addendum to the Internal Revenue Code specifically says charitable institutions like churches should not meddle or participate in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the legislation, which was later adopted.

The news outlets discovered that at least two of the supposed violations happened in the past two weeks during the political trails of candidates across the Lone Star state.

They found many violations that exceeded the number of churches the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has probed for potential meddling in political campaigns.

The joint investigation by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune involved the help of three experts who reviewed video footage of the alleged violations to verify if they violated the Johnson Amendment.

The experts included Loyola University Chicago law professor Sam Brunson, University of Notre Dame tax and election professor Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, and Loyola Marymount University tax law professor emerita Ellen Aprill.

The experts discovered upon examination of the video footage that the pastors of the churches under investigation did violate the Johnson Amendment. They explained that while the pastors claimed they were not endorsing any candidate, their actions showed otherwise.

Additionally, the experts noted how some pastors openly admitted knowing that the law prohibits them from endorsing before delivering speeches that amounted to political endorsements.

Also Read: Georgia’s Black Church Community Urges Congregants to Vote Amid State’s Voting Restrictions

Who Were the Alleged Violators?

According to the news report, at least 20 churches all over Texas, Alaska, and other states allegedly violated the Johnson Amendment prohibition on campaigning for or against a political candidate. These churches included the following:

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