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News Release

WHO:  Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.; Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga.; Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb; and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins

WHAT:  News conference on unveiling of the Freedom of Speech Fairness Act, co-sponsored by Scalise and Hice

WHEN:  Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 2:00 p.m. EDT

WHERE:  Room H-326, U.S. Capitol, Washington

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The Freedom of Speech Fairness Act restores free speech and religious liberty to churches and other nonprofits by allowing them to make political statements, so long as they are (1) made in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities in carrying out its exempt purpose, and (2) any expenditure related to this are de minimis. For example, the bill ensures that a minister can make comments about a political candidate or issue as part of a sermon. Additionally, if a charity normally sends out a monthly newsletter related to its core purpose, the bill allows them to occasionally include comments on political issues, or candidates. They would not, however, be allowed to create an entirely new direct mail campaign solely for political information. The bill does not allow non-profit organizations or churches to engage in political activities outside the normal scope of their tax-exempt work or contribute to political activities or candidates.

America was built on the principle that free speech and free exercise of religion are inalienable rights. Americans do not give up their right to speech when they go to work for a church or nonprofit. Yet, that is legal state of affairs under the “Johnson Amendment.” It puts the Internal Revenue Service in the position of judge and jury on comments made by ministers from the pulpit and all speech from nonprofits. Given the IRS’s egregious abuses in recent years, this IRS power is most concerning.

The existence of the Johnson Amendment has resulted in a silencing of churches and nonprofits. Even without direct action by the IRS, the law creates a chilling effect on speech, especially for religious institutions. Groups like Americans for Separation of Church and State regularly send threatening letters to pastors filled with warnings.

ADF has been actively seeking to end the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment against churches through its Pulpit Freedom Sunday effort since 2008.
 

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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