DearColleague.us

Letter

Sending Office: Honorable Jared Huffman
Sent By:
Jordan.Sciascia@mail.house.gov

Closing COB Friday, January 17

 

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to ask that you join me in sending a letter to the IRS asking them to investigate the Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesus for potential violations of the Johnson Amendment.

The Johnson Amendment prohibits tax-exempt charitable organizations, including churches, from “participating in or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Rev. Rul. 2007-41, 2007-25 I.R.B.
(June 28, 2007). While religious figures may discuss political and social topics from the pulpit, organize nonpartisan voter education efforts, and even endorse political candidates in their personal capacity, the tax-exempt status of houses of worship prevents
these entities from taking stances on candidates for political office. This provision of the tax code serves as an important check on the intermingling of campaigns and charitable organizations and helps keep political influence out of the nonprofit sector.

Despite this longstanding law and regulation, on January 3, 2020, El Rey Jesus, a large evangelical church in Miami, Florida, hosted a political rally for President Donald Trump for his re-election campaign. Additionally, the church’s lead pastor, Guillermo
Maldonado, urged his congregation at services on Dec. 29, 2019 to attend the rally, stating, “if you want to come, do it for your pastor. That’s a way of supporting me,” according to the Miami Herald. But Mr. Maldonado was well aware of constraints of the
Johnson Amendment, and was even quoted in the Washington Post in 2012 stating “As a 501(c)3 we cannot endorse anyone.” Nevertheless, by encouraging his congregants to attend President Trump’s rally, Mr. Maldonado violated the Johnson Amendment by publicly
endorsing a political candidate in his official capacity as pastor. Maldonado’s participation and endorsement of a candidate, while acting as a representative for his church, violates the IRS’s prohibition against endorsing political candidates.

With their actions, the President’s re-election campaign and Pastor Maldonado have muddied the clear separation between non-profit entities and political affiliations. Please join me in asking the IRS to ensure that they investigate this matter and that
these lines are not further blurred. If you have any questions, or would like to sign on, please email Jordan Sciascia at Jordan.Sciascia@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

 

Jared Huffman

Member of Congress

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

January XX, 2020

Mary A. Epps, Acting Director 

Exempt Organizations Examinations 

Internal Revenue Service 

1111 Constitution Ave., N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20224

Dear Ms. Epps:

We write to request that you immediately investigate the potential violation of the Johnson Amendment by the Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesus and the church’s lead pastor Guillermo Maldonado. 

The Johnson Amendment prohibits tax-exempt charitable organizations, including churches, from “participating in or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Rev. Rul. 2007-41, 2007-25 I.R.B.
(June 28, 2007). While religious figures may discuss political and social topics from the pulpit, organize nonpartisan voter education efforts, and even endorse political candidates in their personal capacity, the tax-exempt status of houses of worship prevents
these entities from taking stances on candidates for political office. This provision of the tax code serves as an important check on the intermingling of campaigns and charitable organizations and helps keep political influence out of the nonprofit sector.

Despite this longstanding law and regulation, on January 3, 2020, El Rey Jesus, a large evangelical church in Miami, Florida, hosted a political rally for President Donald Trump for his re-election campaign. Additionally, the church’s lead pastor, Guillermo
Maldonado, urged his congregation at services on Dec. 29, 2019 to attend the rally, stating, “if you want to come, do it for your pastor. That’s a way of supporting me,” according to the Miami Herald1. But Mr. Maldonado was well aware of constraints
of the Johnson Amendment, and was even quoted in the Washington Post2 in 2012 stating “As a 501(c)(3) we cannot endorse anyone.” Nevertheless, by encouraging his congregants to attend President Trump’s rally, Mr. Maldonado violated the Johnson Amendment
by publicly endorsing a political candidate in his official capacity as pastor. Maldonado’s participation and endorsement of a candidate, while acting as a representative for his church, violates the IRS’s prohibition against endorsing political candidates.

As you know, on May 4, 2017, the White House issued an executive order (EO) entitled “Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” This EO does not amend the plain language of the tax code, nor has the IRS issued any guidance
allowing houses of worship to use tax-deductible donations to conduct campaign events. Therefore, the actions of Pastor Maldonado may still constitute a violation of the Johnson Amendment.

The President’s re-election campaign and Pastor Maldonado have muddied the law’s clear separation between political campaigns and 501(c)(3) non-profit entities. As members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus and of the House of Representatives at large,
we ask that you initiate an immediate investigation of this apparent violation of the Johnson Amendment. 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Ethics and Standards, Government, Rules/Legislative Branch, Taxes

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