Schmidt Discusses Johnson Amendment in The Conversation

Elizabeth (Betsy) Schmidt, an expert on nonprofit law and management, has published an article in The Conversation about the Johnson Amendment, a part of the federal tax code that forbids tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, to refrain from involvement in political campaigns.

President Donald Trump has pledged to repeal the amendment to "allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution."

Schmidt argues that churches (and other nonprofits covered by the amendment) often engage in political activities but are rarely threatened with the loss of their tax-exempt status because of lax enforcement. She also notes that churches can engage in many political activities so long as the actions are non-partisan and don't represent the bulk of a church's activities, and that pastors can speak out even in partisan ways so long as they do so in their role as private citizens.

At the same time, Schmidt notes that a total repeal of the Johnson Amendment, as advocated by the Trump administration, is likely to have far-reaching consequences.

The full text of Schmidt's article is available here.

Schmidt joined the SPP faculty in 2015. She came to UMass Amherst from George Mason University, where she served as director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship and as faculty director of the graduate program in social entrepreneurship.

Schmidt has a J.D. from Stanford University and previously served as general counsel and vice president of business development at GuideStar, an information service that specializes in reporting on U.S. nonprofits. She began teaching nonprofit law and management at William and Mary Law School, and has also taught at Vermont Law School, which specializes in environmental law.