We sat down with U.S. Representative Jody Hice (R-GA) to ask him a few questions about the Free Speech Fairness Act, which was introduced in the House and Senate last week.
What is the Free Speech Fairness Act?
It is a bill to try to restore free speech rights of pastors and leaders of non-profit organizations who, for over 60 years now, have faced intimidation, punishment, and harassment from the IRS for addressing certain issues that are deemed political and thereby deemed off limits by the IRS.
What is the history of the Johnson Amendment?
LBJ [Lyndon B. Johnson] barely won a Senate race from Texas. The reason he almost lost is because a couple of leaders of some non-profit organizations thought he was soft on communism. After he won that narrow victory, he came to the Senate. One of the first things he did, behind closed doors, without any debate on the Senate floor, he had inserted into the IRS code what has come to be known as the Johnson Amendment. And it has had a chilling effect [on free speech] now for over 60 years. It is time to overturn it.
What do you hope to achieve with the Free Speech Fairness Act?
To restore the rights of our religious ministry leaders across this country to speak biblical truth without fear of harassment, intimidation, and punishment from our government. It was like that for 150-plus years in this country. Now we are seeing the chilling effects from that [harassment], our culture declining, as well as our political situation declining. We need to free the pulpits of America up again and this bill is designed to do that.