H.R. 781: “Free Speech Fairness Act”

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Last Updated: 02/01/2017
H.R. 781: “Free Speech Fairness Act”
Sponsors:
Rep. Steve Scalise (LA-1)
Summary:

This bill amends provisions known as “The Johnson Amendment” in the U.S. tax code which prevent charitable organizations from making expressly political statements. This bill would allow such statements from charitable organizations like homeschool support groups, state homeschool organizations, etc. if they are made in the ordinary course of carrying out the organizations tax exempt purpose.

HSLDA's Position:
Support.
Action Requested:
None at this time
Status:

Introduced: 02/01/2017
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee

Background:

This bill is designed to address the Johnson Amendment, a provision in the tax code which has been used to censor non-profit organizations and their leaders from engaging in political speech. This amendment was intended to prevent significant political activity from being funded by tax-exempt charitable organizations, therefore not incurring real expense to those seeking to influence the outcome of an election. In theory, such a provision would help maintain free speech and fair elections. In practice, it has hindered free speech and infringed on First Amendment rights.

S. 264 seeks to revise this amendment to ensure that 501(c)(3) organizations, including nonprofits, churches, charitable organizations, etc. are able to make explicitly political statements without risk of legal action against them. Such statements would be protected by this bill so long as it is on a topic relevant to their normal activities, and representing only a minimal financial expense. It also must not be an expense that would be incurred outside the normal operations of the organization.

HSLDA supports this bill because many of the homeschool organizations who do so much to bolster and strengthen the homeschool community are 501(c)(3) organizations. Passage of this bill and a repeal of the Johnson Amendment would give these organizations the freedom to speak out on the issues that affect homeschool families in the political sphere. This would allow them to make statements about candidates stances on homeschooling issues, make statements about legislation and encourage activism and other important roles to the maintenance of homeschool freedom in America.

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Washington Post: U.S. Nonprofits, Including Churches, Should be Allowed to Take Sides in Politics

Family Research Council: Free Speech Fairness Act