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On Thursday President Trump signed an executive order that could have a significant impact on the charitable nonprofit sector. Although the law has not changed and the executive order is somewhat confusing, it essentially instructs the IRS to look the other way when it finds that a nonprofit or religious organization violates the Johnson Amendment. This provision in the tax code, named after President Lyndon Johnson, is intended to keep politics and the money that flows to political candidates out of charitable nonprofits. Recently the Foraker Governance Board issued a statement calling for support for nonprofit partisanship, and we stand with over 4,500 nonprofits across the country who submitted a similar call through a letter to Congress.
We feel strongly that any attempt to repeal the Johnson Amendment is completely unnecessary. Nonprofits and their individual staff, board members, and volunteers already have many legal avenues to freely express their views on a wide range of policy issues. And as individual Americans they are still afforded the right to free speech. Changes to the Johnson Amendment will only harm religious freedom and free speech – values that are fundamental to our nation and our people.
This executive order may give nonprofits and religious organizations the sense that they are now free to engage in political activities. An executive order does not change law – and the Johnson Amendment is the law. We encourage all Alaska nonprofits, including religious organizations, to stay the course and avoid the type of political activity that is prohibited by law.
Foraker continues to stand against the erosion of the sector by allowing political endorsements and campaign spending by nonprofits. We expect a legal challenge to this executive order, along with more debate in Congress. We strongly encourage all nonprofits to continue to practice accountability and ethics by staying true to your core values and focusing on your mission.
We will continue to monitor this critical issue for our sector and to advocate to our congressional delegation about the harm to missions and organizations that will result from weakening the Johnson Amendment.
Join us and raise your voice. Stay involved. Stay informed. Be clear on the facts. Stand up for nonprofit nonpartisanship.
To read more about our position click here.