New York passes Johnson Amendment barring churches from political speech. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill into law that prohibits churches and other nonprofits from campaigning for or against political candidates.
Cuomo signed Senate Bill S4347 last week, creating a state-level equivalent to the current federal Johnson Amendment, which bans electioneering among nonprofits.
In a statement released last Wednesday, Cuomo said he felt the law was necessary in response to efforts by the Trump administration to weaken the Johnson Amendment.
“For too long we have listened to the Trump administration threaten to remove common sense protections prohibiting tax exempt organizations from engaging in inappropriate political activities,” Cuomo said.
“New Yorkers have a right to free and fair elections, and this law will further protect our democracy from unjustified interferences once and for all.”
Also known as Assembly Bill A623, the bill amended the state tax law to say that nonprofit organizations, religious or secular, cannot participate in “any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.”
Ryan Tucker of the Alliance Defending Freedom took issue with Cuomo’s signing of the law, writing in a New York Daily News opinion piece last week that the state government was “cracking down on political speech.”
“In the minds of New York lawmakers, a group can only speak freely if it pays the government extra for the privilege of doing so. That type of financial coercion may pay for a payroll increase in Albany, but it will sideline the roles of both secular and religious charities,” Tucker wrote.
“Cuomo’s comments are wrong. The government can’t condition your tax-exempt status with the surrender of your First Amendment rights or any other constitutionally protected freedom.”
The Johnson Amendment was passed in 1954, and was named for then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. The measure has garnered controversy, especially in recent years, by those who believe the amendment curbs the rights of nonprofits, especially churches.
In May 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which, among other things, called for the federal government to stop enforcing the Johnson Amendment.
“In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective,” stated Section 2 of the executive order.
Striking for the Common Good
The demands of Chicago teachers went far beyond pay in a strike that traced its roots to an Obama-era protest of education reform policy. WHEN TEACHERS IN Chicago reached an agreement with the city to end a historic 11-day strike Thursday, it marked the closure of a labor dispute that pushed the boundaries of traditional contract negotiations – one that went far beyond fighting to increase salaries.
Setting itself apart from the dozens of other rallies, protests and strikes by teachers in more than a dozen places this year that centered on things like pay and class sizes, educators in Chicago insisted that the contract include something that has historically been outside the purview of negotiations: social safety net support for the city’s most vulnerable students.
“For an outsider who is not sensitive about a lot of stuff poor folks need or the needs for public education, when you see the demand for librarians, nurses and social workers, people say, ‘What they hell is wrong with this union?'” says Lee Howard Adler, a labor, criminal law and civil rights practitioner who teaches at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
“But this union is about the city of Chicago, and that is a sea change in terms of traditional collective bargaining,” he says. “The union is not just negotiating for a better contract, it’s negotiating for the common weal, which primarily consists of low-income folks.”
The new contract includes a commitment to staff all schools with a full-time nurse and a full-time social worker every day, as well as increased staff for bilingual students and students with disabilities. The highest need schools will also have access to more librarians, restorative justice coordinators and other types of support staff.
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