Publication Date

Summer 2017


Rutgers University Law Review


President Trump, reiterating the position he took during the presidential campaign, has recently reaffirmed his pledge to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment,” the provision of the Internal Revenue Code which prohibits tax-exempt institutions from participating in political campaigns. The Code also bars tax-exempt institutions, including churches, from substantial lobbying activities.

Rather than the blanket repeal of the Johnson Amendment proposed by President Trump, I argue for a statutory safe harbor for the internal communications of churches. This limited safe harbor would protect in-house church discussions from both Section 501(c)(3)’s ban on substantial lobbying and from that section’s prohibition on political campaigning. Under this proposed amendment to the Internal Revenue Code, churches, along with other religious and secular tax-exempt institutions, would otherwise remain subject to the Code’s bars on campaigning and lobbying. While entanglement considerations counsel greater protection than current law provides for speech within churches, these statutory bars properly deter the diversion of income tax-deductible resources to campaigning and lobbying. My more targeted reform of the Johnson Amendment addresses the legitimate concerns of churches about their First Amendment rights while preventing the tax-exempt sector from becoming a conduit for tax-deductible campaign contributions.





First Page


Last Page



Rutgers Law School


Churches, First Amendment, Lobbying, Politics (General), Religion and the Law, Safe Harbor, Legal Practice and Procedure, Taxation--Federal, Taxation, Business and the Law


First Amendment | Law | Religion Law | Taxation-Federal



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.