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H.R. 781 (115th): Free Speech Fairness Act

The text of the bill below is as of Feb 1, 2017 (Introduced).

Summary of this bill

Should churches be able to endorse candidates or political parties and retain their tax-exempt status?


Since 1954, churches and other religious or nonprofit organizations have been banned from endorsing political candidates or parties from the pulpit, or else they are supposed to lose their tax-exempt status. It’s called the Johnson Amendment.

During negotiations over the Republican tax reform bill of 2017, the House-passed version repealed the Johnson Amendment entirely, while the Senate bill kept it intact. During the reconciliation process, in which the two distinct versions would be combined into a final version and likely become law, Senate Democrats used an obscure provision known as the Byrd Rule ...



1st Session

H. R. 781


February 1, 2017

(for himself and Mr. Jody B. Hice of Georgia) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means


To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow charitable organizations to make statements relating to political campaigns if such statements are made in the ordinary course of carrying out its tax exempt purpose.


Short title

This Act may be cited as the Free Speech Fairness Act.


Allowing 501(c)(3) organization to make statements relating to political campaign in ordinary course of carrying out its tax exempt purpose


In general

Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:


Special rule relating to political campaign statements of organization described in subsection (c)(3)


In general

For purposes of subsection (c)(3) and sections 170(c)(2), 2055, 2106, 2522, and 4955, an organization shall not fail to be treated as organized and operated exclusively for a purpose described in subsection (c)(3), nor shall it be deemed to have participated in, or intervened in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, solely because of the content of any statement which—


is made in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities in carrying out its exempt purpose, and


results in the organization incurring not more than de minimis incremental expenses.



Effective date

The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years ending after the date of the enactment of this Act.