Free Speech Fairness Act
May 2, 2017 12:00 ET

The Free Speech Fairness Act is a bill that restores free speech and religious liberty to churches and other nonprofits by allowing them to make political statements, so long as they are (1) made in the ordinary course of the organization's regular and customary activities in carrying out its exempt purpose, and (2) any expenditures related to this are de minimis. For example, the bill ensures that a minister can make comments about a political candidate or issue as part of a sermon. Additionally, if a charity normally sends out a monthly newsletter related to its core purpose, the bill allows them to occasionally include comments on political issues, or candidates. They would not, however, be allowed to create an entirely new direct mail campaign solely for political information. The bill does not allow non-profit organizations or churches to engage in political activities outside the normal scope of their tax-exempt work or contribute to political activities or candidates.

This bill is needed because America was built on the principle that free speech and free exercise of religion are unalienable rights. Americans do not give up their right to speech when they go to work for a church or nonprofit. Yet, that is legal state of affairs under the "Johnson Amendment." It puts the IRS in the position of judge and jury on comments made by ministers from the pulpit and all speech from nonprofits. Given the IRS's egregious abuses in recent years, this IRS power is most concerning. The existence of the Johnson amendment has resulted in a silencing of churches and nonprofits. Even without direct action by the IRS, the law creates a chilling effect on speech, especially for religious institutions. Groups like Americans for Separation of Church and State regularly send threatening letters to pastors filled with warnings.

Join Congressman Jody Hice as he speaks to the significance of the Free Speech Fairness Act and how it can restore the cultural voice of America's pastors.

Congressman Jody Hice took office in 2015 as the representative of Georgia's 10th Congressional District and serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Before stepping into politics, Congressman Hice served as pastor in three Georgia counties for almost 25 years, and went on to launch the Jody Hice Show, a conservative talk radio program. Congressman Hice is a graduate of Asbury College, and earned his Master's degree from Southwestern Seminary as well as a Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice University. Congressman Hice and his wife of over thirty years, Dee Dee, reside in Greene County and have two daughters and four grandchildren.

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