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Pastors and Politics: 6 Misconceptions About the Johnson Amendment

Pastors and Politics: 6 Misconceptions About the Johnson Amendment

2. The Johnson Amendment is strictly enforced

Opponents of the Johnson Amendment have often argued that the federal measure is muzzling churches by threatening them with loss of their tax-exemption status if they talk about politics.

However, the Johnson Amendment is notable for rarely being enforced. The conservative group the Alliance Defending Freedom sponsors an annual event called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday."

Pulpit Freedom Sunday involves hundreds of churches nationwide purposely violating the Johnson Amendment and then sending the evidence to the IRS to create a test case.

Despite hundreds of clergy sending clear evidence of violating the Johnson Amendment, the number of actions taken against churches since 1954 are few in number.

Liberal groups have lamented the lack of enforcement, with the Freedom From Religion Foundation suing the IRS in 2012.

In 2014, the IRS reached a settlement with the FFRF stating that the IRS had "flagged churches involved with political intervention, including churches that submitted materials as part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday."

Regardless, participating churches in Pulpit Freedom Sunday since the 2014 ruling have yet to report being stripped of their tax exemption status due to violating the Johnson Amendment.

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