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Forum Releases Statement on Religious Liberty Executive Order

Friday, May 5, 2017


David Biemesderfer, President & CEO of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, the largest network serving philanthropy in America, released the following statement in response to the White House executive order on the Johnson Amendment:

“President Donald Trump’s executive order, Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, takes our country in the wrong direction by injecting politics and partisanship into the charitable sector.

The executive order effectively eases current law, known as the Johnson Amendment, that prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations—including charitable nonprofits, private foundations and religious organizations—from endorsing or supporting political candidates. For more than 60 years, this law has allowed nonprofits to do their important community service work—feeding the poor, caring for the sick, healing with the arts, and so much more—free from political rancor or partisan divides. The President’s executive order undermines these charitable efforts, and will damage the public’s current high level of trust and confidence in the nonprofit sector—whose services are needed now more than ever before.

Despite its name, the executive order is not about “free speech” or “religious liberty.” All 501(c)(3) organizations—including churches and other religious organizations—are already free to speak out on important matters of the day, engage in public debates, promote public education efforts, and advocate on policy issues. The executive order serves no purpose other than to add confusion around enforcement of the law—which can only be repealed through an act of Congress.

The Forum is opposed to any weakening or repeal of the Johnson Amendment and rejects any proposal, such as today’s executive order, that inserts partisan politics into the charitable sector.”

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