Target: President Donald J. Trump.
Goal: Continue to prohibit non-profit organizations from engaging in partisan political activity.
Non-profit, tax-deductible, 501(c)(3) organizations are in danger of becoming sites of partisan political activity. During the last National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., President Donald J. Trump announced his plans of dismantling regulation that prohibits non-profit, tax-deductible, 501(c)(3) organizations from endorsing or financially supporting a candidate or political party. For over six decades, this regulation, called the Johnson Amendment, has kept the charity world able to address social problems without distractions, bias, or pressure from outside interests.
Since the Revenue Act of 1917, three principles make up the backbone of non-profits organizations in the United States: tax exemption, no private inurement, and tax-deductible contributions. Such organizations are exempted due to their service to the good of society and have designated monetary gifts stimulated because citizens can get an individual income tax deduction by the act of donating. However, non-profit organizations cannot benefit any staff member from the organization’s net income (for instance, by offering an abusively high salary). In 1954, the Johnson Amendment introduced the explicit restriction on partisan political activity by non-profits to prevent their appropriation for campaign purposes. The amendment, therefore, aims at potential malicious contamination between civil society and the political system, reinforcing the three principles above-mentioned.
Although any individual involved with a non-profit, tax-deductible organization is entitled to free speech, it is essential that organizations with such a label can separate themselves from electoral politics and be away from any disputes between political agents. Such a clear boundary strengthens the public’s goodwill in charitable and/or critical-minded institutions and guarantees that civil society can find a way to work out their issues, challenges, and problems no matter who is in office. Sign the petition below to express that nonpartisanship in the non-profit world should be maintained.
Dear Mr. President,
I have been alarmed by your remarks at the last National Prayer Breakfast. For decades, the Johnson Amendment has guaranteed independent activity and decision-making for not-for-profit, tax-deductible organizations. Your plans to destroy such an amendment undermine the foundations of strong, nonpartisan civic engagement that is so important in a democratic country.
I acknowledge that individuals working in and/or connected with not-for-profit, tax-deductible organizations should have their right to free speech respected. Furthermore, debates on the current notion of the American non-profit sector are always welcome. However, any discussion should consider stakeholders and be free of partisan political wills and harassment.
I urge you to abandon any plan of tearing apart one the most important pieces of legislation to the American civil society.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jessy Rone