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Rep. John Lewis on the Repeal of the Johnson Amendment in H.R. 1

November 8, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Today during the House Ways and Means Committee markup of H.R. 1, the House Republican tax cut bill, Reps. John Lewis (GA), Ron Kind (WI), Judy Chu (CA), Suzan K. DelBene (WA), Lloyd Doggett (TX), Brian Higgins (NY), Danny K. Davis (IL), and Earl Blumenauer (OR) offered an amendment to restore the “Johnson Amendment”.  

This simple amendment would restore the 53-year standard that prohibits religious, nonprofit, charitable, and related organizations from engaging in political activities.

The amendment would save $2.1 billion based on the JCT estimate.  The cost is based on a good-faith estimate of an expected rapid growth of tax-exempt political contributions. 

During the markup, Congressman Lewis made the below statement (WATCH) --

“Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.  First, let me thank my friends and colleagues for joining me as cosponsors of this amendment.

“Mr. Chairman, our amendment is very simple.  It would save $2.1 billion dollars by striking section 5201 of the bill.

“Mr. Chairman, I want to be honest with you -- it never crossed my mind that without any notice or warning, this Committee would actually consider a bill to repeal the Johnson Amendment. When faith leaders and charitable organizations began expressing concerns to me earlier this year, I thought they were overreacting.   It was too crazy too unbelievable for this idea to be even possible, but when I reached the end of this bill, I was shocked and appalled.  

“You see, during the Civil Rights Movement, we fought to tear down pillars of hate and discrimination.  We spent hours in churches, temples, and synagogues organizing, training, studying, because where faith leaders had the moral authority to stand against immoral laws and guide us against indefensible policies.  Our movement was never about a party or a candidate.  We came together because of our shared values, our hopes, and our dreams for our families, communities, country, and world.   People of all races, all religions, and all walks of life were united by a moral purpose for a shared purpose and mission.

“The bill before us would pit neighbor against neighbor, worshipper against worshipper, and volunteer against volunteer.  It will literally wreak havoc on the last pillars of civility in our country. 

“Now, some of you may not remember -- or maybe you were not here -- when the House last tried to pass a bill to repeal the Johnson amendment.   I was here, and I remember it like it was yesterday. 

“Fifteen years ago, I managed that bill for our side on the House Floor, and I joined my colleagues across the aisle as a Republican-led Congress voted down this terrible idea.  Democrats and Republicans came together to preserve the last remaining sanctuaries from partisan politics.   In our heart of hearts, we understood that we had a responsibility to put the good of our nation before campaigns.   

“My friends, we need that vision and unity again today.  Help us save us from what we might do today. 

“Now I have spent my entire lifetime, not as a lay person, but as ordained and licensed minister.  I know that there is a separation between church and state.  This is a good amendment, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this amendment.”

A daily summary of the Committee’s markup proceedings is available at


HOUSE:  House Ways and Means Committee Markup → House Rules Committee → House Floor Debate

SENATE: Senate Finance Committee Markup Resources → Senate Budget Committee Resources → Senate Floor Debate

CONFERENCE: Conference Committee → Conference Report

Rep. Lewis' Public Statements about H.R. 1

Rep. Lewis' Missed Opportunities Bills

Rep. Lewis' Proposed Amendments to H.R. 1

Official Non-Partisan Analysis of H.R. 1