House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., introduced legislation Wednesday that would reinstate pastors' and churches' rights to speak freely on political matters and would allay major religious liberty and free speech concerns caused by the Johnson Amendment.
As thousands of pastors across the nation get ready to partake in the annual "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" on Oct. 2, Scalise and Rep. Jody Hice, R- Ga., introduced the "Free Speech Fairness Act," which would eliminate the longstanding threat of churches and nonprofit organizations being stripped of their tax-exempt statuses or fined if they speak publicly about public policy or endorse candidates for public office.
The bill, also known as H.R. 6195, comes as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has drawn the appeal of social conservatives and evangelicals by vowing to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which was passed in 1954 and has allowed the IRS to intimidate and censor churches and other nonprofit organizations.
"For decades now, the Johnson Amendment has limited the ability for a lot of churches and religious organizations and nonprofits to express their views and to exercise their free speech rights and exercise the religious liberty that is one of the hallmarks of our Constitution," Scalise said during a press conference at the United States Capitol on Wednesday.