Oklahoma Nonprofit Group Decries Trump Executive Order

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 4, 2017

Daniel Billingsley

Vice President of External Affairs

(405) 982-0582  |  dbillingsley@okcnp.org

 

Oklahoma Nonprofit Group Decries Trump Executive Order

 That Weakens IRS Oversight of Interference in Elections by Organizations

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits expressed deep disappointment with a confusing and sweeping executive order signed by President Trump that will weaken the charitable sector by discouraging enforcement of the Johnson Amendment for churches and religious organizations. The Johnson Amendment, passed in 1954, is a law that prohibits 501c3 organizations from endorsing candidates or participating in or interfering in elections.

 

Marnie Taylor, President and CEO, said the order is very troubling for the sector. The executive order is an attempt to undo decades of nonpartisan activities by the charitable sector through the erosion of the oversight standards from the Internal Revenue Service that ensures nonprofits don’t engage in election interference. The order specifically appears to give the I.R.S. wider latitude to avoid enforcing laws prohibiting candidate endorsement by churches and religious organizations.

 

“This order seeks to undermine a congressionally approved, decades-old law that prohibits charitable organizations from endorsing candidates,” she said. “The Johnson Amendment is one of our pillars of the tax-exempt status we enjoy by doing the charitable work that changes and saves lives each and every day in Oklahoma and the United States. By weakening the I.R.S.’s role in maintaining its Congress-mandated oversight with this confusing executive order applying only to houses of worship and religious organizations, it only sows misunderstanding for the charitable sector’s role in advocacy and public policy.”

 

Taylor believes charitable nonprofits and foundations should be focused on the mission and not on candidates.

 

“The Center has long encouraged, in very strong terms, our charitable nonprofits to advocate for the people they serve, engage with policy makers and educate the public about issues,” she said. “This advocacy that is relevant to nonprofit missions makes our work more effective. By politicizing nonprofits, including our houses of worship, we risk alienating our board members, volunteers, staff, donors and the people we serve.”

 

The Center echoes other national nonprofit leadership groups including the National Council of Nonprofits and Independent Sector who immediately expressed dismay and frustration with the executive order. While the order focused on religious liberty and free speech for churches and religious organizations, it could eventually be a slippery slope affecting charitable nonprofits which make up the bulk of 501c3 organizations in the United States.

 

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The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits is the state’s preeminent organization helping to build capacity for charitable organizations in the state through training, consultation, networking and advocacy. The organization is a member of the National Council of Nonprofits, is accredited in Standards for Excellence and has a Platinum rating on Guidestar. More information at okcnp.org.

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