Federal Advocacy

Protecting Nonprofit Nonpartisanship

PANO supports policies that protect the integrity and independence of charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations which empower individuals of all beliefs to come together to solve community problems free from partisan divisions. We support policy that prohibits nonprofit endorsement of political candidates and campaign financing.

Nonprofits wanting to help preserve nonprofit nonpartisanship should contact Senator CaseySenator Toomey, and your U.S. Representative and deliver this simple message:
“Partisanship has NO place in charitable organizations – whether churches, charities, or foundations. Oppose all efforts to add a controversial anti-Johnson Amendment riders to any bill.”

Nonpartisanship Is a Shield and Not a Barrier
The voting public in the United States trusts charities more than they trust political parties or any one politician. See Independent Sector’s United for Charity Report. But one tenet that underpins the public’s confidence is in jeopardy: nonpartisanship.

After hearing from nonprofits from around the Commonwealth, PANO joined the National Council of Nonprofits in signing the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship. Over 5,800 organizations signed the community letter of support, calling on Congress to protect the longstanding Johnson Amendment and nonprofit nonpartisanship. Join the 5,800+ nonprofits and add your organization’s name to the Community Letter in Support of NonpartisanshipCheck out this press release from the National Council of Nonprofits. Thank you to everyone who added your organization to the letter.

Johnson Amendment History
The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the federal tax code that prohibits charitable nonprofits, religious congregations, and foundations from endorsing, opposing or fundraising for political candidates. Ministers are restricted from endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. If organizations fail to comply, they risk losing their tax-exempt status. This stipulation has allowed charities to engage people from all parties in mission-related causes that benefit whole communities. And these same nonprofits can lobby for mission-related causes.

Since early 2017, various bills and extraneous riders have attempted to completely repeal or weaken this provision. If successfully repealed not only would nonprofits be able to endorse candidates, but political campaigns could flow through 501(c)(3)–making political contributions tax deductible for the first time in history and allowing political donors to remain anonymous.

Why Nonpartisanship Matters
Repealing the Johnson Amendment could tarnish the integrity of the nonprofit and philanthropic community, damaging public trust in the impartiality and independence of our sector and our mandate to “do good.” PANO joins National Council of Nonprofits, the Independent Sector, the Council on Foundations and thousands of charitable nonprofits in support of nonpartisanship. We strongly oppose efforts to politicize charities by eliminating the Johnson Amendment for these reasons:

1. Repealing the Johnson Amendment may subject charities and foundations to demands from candidates for endorsements and campaign contributions, diverting donor money away from mission-related work to benefit politicians.

2. Nonpartisanship is a shield, not a barrier. Participation in partisan politics can create strong opponents on issues that nonprofits care about, impeding their ability to solicit support from those they oppose to fulfill their mission. Partisanship could alienate those who depend on these organizations for services or those who contribute time, talent and treasure to nonprofits.

3. The Johnson Amendment has worked for more than 60 years without significantly hampering charities. Nonprofits already have many legal avenues to advocate for mission-related issues with policymakers. As individuals away from their work, nonprofit managers and their supporters have the right to freely express their views on candidates.

4. Charities could become conduits for tax deductible contributions to be used for political activity. No other political contributions are tax deductible. Political contributions could become more unaccountable because charities are not required to publish the names of their donors. This may be particularly true for churches because they are not required to obtain formal recognition of their exempt status and are not required to file tax returns that report their expenditures

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