My Letter to Congressman: Do Not Repeal Johnson Amendment (HR-127)

So my petition to acknowledge the civil rights of atheists went down in flames.

My uber-religious representative in Congress (Adrian Smith, R-Nebr.) got a letter today from me concerning the bill before the House (HR-127) to repeal the Johnson Amendment. It was the first bill entered by the new Congress (with all the claims the Republicans are making about fiscal problems, the first issue on their plate is crushing religious freedoms). My letter appears here after the short title of HR-127 in this message.

If you do not know what that is, the Johnson Amendment specifically prohibits not-for-profit religious organisations from politicking or endorsing candidates, funding campaigns, &c. In short, they must act like any other non-profit organisation.

If you don't think your religious freedoms as atheists are at stake here, then keep your silence (like on my petition). But if you value a secular state that is disinterested in religion, I cannot urge you strongly enough to read the bill, then write your Congress-critter to oppose this dangerous bill.

But if you don't stand up for your rights, no one will. You don't deserve them.

To find your congressional representative, (You may also enter an E-mail to your representative from the House site)

Full text of bill at the Library of Congress:

Latest Title: To restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.
Sponsor: Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. [NC-3] (introduced 1/3/2013)      Cosponsors (1)
Latest Major Action: 1/3/2013 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Churches, temples, mosques, and other religious institutions are tax-exempt organizations. The Johnson Amendment specifically prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from using their tax-exempt status to promote candidates for political office.

The issue is painted as one of free speech, but that is a dodge. Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other religious organizations are not required to accept tax-free status. No other tax-exempt organization may politic on behalf of candidates or parties; by allowing such is to permit an unequal financial advantage to churches over any other non-profit.

To repeal this amendment would allow tax-exempt religious organizations to exert undue influence on the secular government of the United States. As an atheist, I am not in principle opposed to churches. I am opposed to giving them a tax-free status with my tax money to become political mouthpieces.

As a disabled veteran, I find it abhorrent that the Constitution I defended and supported on behalf of all could be subverted so easily, allowing the de facto taxpayer support of religious organizations to become political mouthpieces.

The separation of Church and State is the best defense our Constitution provides for all faiths, and those of no faith. It prevents the pernicious erosion of our political freedoms. That separation is the precise reason the United States has the most diverse and inclusive religious life of any First World nation.

The repeal of the amendment would be a particular blow to those twenty percent who identify as having no religious faith: our tax money would be used to permit the religious to support or oppose political candidates and positions. I cannot urge you strongly enough to defend religious freedom for all Americans. Should HR-127 come out of committee, I implore you to vote against it.

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Alas, it won't do me any good to make noise on this issue.  I'm in a very liberal district, and my representative is already doing almost everything I would want him to.  Sucks, sometimes.

He can't know his constituents' positions unless they tell him.

He still might vote for it. Do you know his position on it?

That's why you need to write.

Yup.  He's a solid separation-of-church-and-state supporter.  I'm in the largest liberal pocket of North Carolina.

Which representative? It was a North Carolina representative that wrote the bill.

David Price.  Most of the House members from North Carolina are Republicans.  I'm in one of the three sane pockets in the state.

Wow. Looking at a map of your district (NC-4) I doubt someone could come up with a better gerrymandering job if they used an Etch-a-Sketch.

Having looked at all the previous zombie incarnations of this bill, I see that Rep. Price never had anything to do with it (though the self-proclaimed libertarian Ron Paul of Texas has sponsored it multiple times - another reason I don't like that guy now).

Still, a letter or E-mail to him from one of his constituents (you, for example) would let him know he has support in opposing it.

That can be done here:

Yup, North Carolina got pretty thoroughly fucked, in the Great Gerrymander of 2010, along with many of the other states.

The Raleigh/Durham area has always been pretty split up, though.  North Carolina has 3 large urban centers and then a whole hell of a lot of nothing.  You can't have an urban cluster with more than a million people, without splitting it up some.

With our new Republican governor, the bullshit that the state congress has been passing for the past two years will no longer get vetoed, as it did under Bev Perdue.  I'm about ready to get out of this place.

That mirrors my opinion of Ron Paul.  He preaches Libertarianism, in general, but when you get down to most of his specifics, he pushes the same crap as the rest of the fundie, nut-job right.  The only way he's at all Libertarian is at the federal level.  He wants the federal government to be stripped of power, so that unconstitutional, freedom-stripping policies can be set in many individual states.


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