Action Alert: Preserve Nonprofit Nonpartisanship Today

March 1, 2018

Last year, the White House and some well-funded special interests aggressively lobbied Congress and came dangerously close to repealing the Johnson Amendment, the longstanding law that protects charitable, religious, and philanthropic organizations from demands from candidates for public office and their operatives for endorsements and other partisan activities. The only thing that stopped them from prevailing was strong and united opposition by Americans like you who rallied to demand that Congress keep the rancor of partisan political electioneering out of our charities, houses of worship, and foundations.

Your voice is needed again – now – to protect the Johnson Amendment, because those who seek to politicize 501(c)(3) organizations are back, vowing to have their way on the next bill coming through Congress. All individuals who care about the integrity and effectiveness of a nonprofit’s mission need to take action now to protect the Johnson Amendment and tell Congress not to change this vital and longstanding law.

Members of Congress are writing a bill to fund the government through the rest of the current fiscal year (through the end of September) and potentially address scores of other issues. By most accounts, this “omnibus spending bill” could be the last significant piece of legislation that works its way through Congress before the elections in November. For that reason, the bill is attracting many extremely controversial issues – like anti-Johnson Amendment language – that likely could never pass as free-standing bills. The legislation must be passed by March 23, but congressional leaders are negotiating right now about what will go into the bill – and what issues are too controversial to be included.

All of this is to say that politicians and well-funded partisan interests in Washington, DC are redoubling their efforts to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment, and they are looking to the omnibus spending vehicle as their last, best chance.

Take Action Now
Individuals can support nonpartisanship and help defeat efforts in Congress to repeal or weaken current protections in the law (the Johnson Amendment) by taking any of the following actions:

1. Call your Senators and Representatives: Tell them:

The vast nonprofit community strongly supports the Johnson Amendment, the longstanding law that protects charitable organizations, houses of worship, and foundations from caustic, partisan politics. We expect you to oppose any attempt to attach a rider to the omnibus spending bill that would repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment. Nonprofits are counting on the [Representative/Senator] to preserve nonprofit nonpartisanship.

Find contact information here. Reply to this email and let us know that you made calls. NOTE: Studies show that calls to congressional offices are the most effective means of constituent advocacy – so make the calls first before taking other actions.

2. Tweet your Representatives and SenatorsFind your Representative and Senators and send this message to her/him. (Be sure to start with a period before the politician’s handle):

.Representative’s/Senator’s Twitter Handle No anti-Johnson Amendment rider on the omnibus spending bill. #Nonprofits are effective because they focus on #CommunityNotCandidates. Maintain #JohnsonAmendment

3. Sign the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship, if your organization hasn’t already, and forward the link to colleague organizations and encourage their support. More than 5,600 charitable, religious, and philanthropic organizations have joined this letter in calling on Members of Congress to oppose “efforts to weaken and/or repeal the current law that for six decades has successfully protected the integrity and effectiveness of charitable nonprofits and foundations by keeping them apart from partisan politics.” Read the letter and see who has already signed. You can also download the Community Letter addressed to your Representative and Senators, make copies and email them to your elected officials with a note about why nonpartisanship is so important to your organization and the people you serve.

4. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor of your local newspaper. An article doesn’t have to be in the biggest newspaper in the state to get the attention of Representatives and Senators. They studiously read the clips from all their local papers, including from the small and weekly publications, and especially when their names are included in the articles. Newspapers have published the views of hundreds of people from nonprofits who have written on behalf of the Johnson Amendment and the importance of nonpartisanship. Take a look at the template below as well as a sampling of op-eds and letters to editors from across the country. If you have questions on this or need templates or advice, please contact David Streeter.

5. Make a short video in support of nonpartisanship. People will watch short videos when they might ignore an article, an action alert, etc. State-specific videos grab the attention of in-state nonprofits, members of your congressional delegation, state media (giving local reporters people they can quote). Also, they are suitable for tweeting and website posting to broaden your reach. One short video can touch multiple audiences and drive them to want to learn more about you and the issue. Use the cameras in your phones (landscape mode) to record people giving 15-second testimonials. Send the videos to [email protected] so it can be included in a Washington State specific video. Questions to answer in the video are:

  • What is your name, what is your organization, and where do you operate?
  • What would it mean to your nonprofit’s work if nonprofits started endorsing candidates for public office?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to say about the Johnson Amendment?

6. Download and send this action alert to your networks. We need as many nonprofit board, staff members, and supporters taking action in support of the Johnson Amendment. Download the text here and feel free to edit it to suit your organization and/or contact David Streeter if you would like additional materials to circulate.

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