|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2017
WASHINGTON (NRB) – National Religious Broadcasters today applauded the introduction of the Free Speech Fairness Act by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) in the House of Representatives and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) in the Senate.
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, NRB President & CEO, issued the following statement:
“For too long the infamous Johnson Amendment has dangled like a sword above the heads of pastors and ministry leaders, chilling their constitutional free speech rights. The Free Speech Fairness Act is a fair and reasonable remedy that will ensure such leaders know they can speak as they feel called without having to worry about the heavy hand of the IRS coming down on them. I am grateful to President Trump for raising this issue to prominence over the last year, and I thank Sen. Lankford, Whip Scalise, and Rep. Hice for carefully crafting this bill. I urge its swift passage by Congress.”
A 1954 provision authored by then-Senate Democratic Leader Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas) to stop Section 501(c)(3) organizations from “intervening” in political campaigns has since been interpreted to bar ministers and nonprofit leaders from making political statements at their organizations’ functions or in their publications. In addition to being constitutionally suspect, this rule has been vaguely and inconsistently applied by the IRS, resulting in a chilling effect.
Aimed at lifting the burden of the Johnson Amendment off of churches and other nonprofit organizations, the Free Speech Fairness Act clarifies that political statements by 501(c)(3) organizations are permissible, as long as they are made in the ordinary course of the organization’s activities and any expenditures related to them are de minimis. While churches and charities would still be prohibited from purchasing ads or making other such targeted political expenditures, the bill unshackles speech by making clear that organizations need not fear expressing views in the normal course of business.
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth, promote media excellence, and defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at www.nrb.org.
About the NRB Convention
The annual NRB International Christian Media Convention is the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications. The dynamic Exposition consists of around 200 companies and is an active marketplace for those seeking tools and services to expand their organizations. The next Convention, Proclaim 17, will be held at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida, February 27-March 2, 2017. For more information, go to www.nrbconvention.org.
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