Pastors to Endorse Candidates from the Pulpit on Sunday

 By Albert N. Milliron

On Sunday, September 28th a test of the First Amendment will ring from Churches all over the United States.  Pastors will compare the Biblical record with the two candidates running for president.  Some will endorse a candidate based on what the Bible says.  The First Amendment has two parts

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

That congress can make no law respecting the Establishment of Religion or the free exercise of Such.  The next part is regarding the Freedom of Speech.  It has been established that churches cannot inject itself into the political process or they will lose tax exemption status.  Many feel that this is a pure violation of the first Amendment that allows for the free exercise of such and freedom of speech.  Congress is to make no law regarding this amendment. 

Churches enjoy tax exemption due to the Establishment Clause in the constitution.  Many feel that if a pastor or church endorse a candidate they cross the line by mixing church and state.  The Amendment does not allow for the State to interject itself into the Church.  There is no provision prohibiting the Church from interjecting itself into the political process. 

The Term Separation of Church and State is not found anywhere in the US Constitution.  It is taught in schools and universities.  The Amendment was established to make sure that the United States does not adopt a State religion as was the case in England.  Folks came to America from England and Germany to get away from a Church who ruled state affairs.

On Sunday, Pastors in 22 states will put the first Amendment to test.  Many in the Government state that they are jeopardizing their tax exempt status

Why don’t churches pay taxes?

In its 1970 opinion in Walz vs. Tax Commission of the City of New York, the high court stated that a tax exemption for churches “creates only a minimal and remote involvement between church and state and far less than taxation of churches. [An exemption] restricts the fiscal relationship between church and state, and tends to complement and reinforce the desired separation insulating each from the other.” The Supreme Court also said that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy.” Taxing churches breaks down the healthy separation of church and state and leads to the destruction of the free exercise of religion.

The church has an allegiance to ones God. This was a matter that was an issue in the First Century Church. During the First Christianity became illegal and the Caesar required the inhabitants to recognize him as god. Many Christian died because it would not bow to Caesar as their god as their allegiance was to the God of the Bible.

If the Bible has provisions that are forbidden one might think it the responsibility of the Church to exercise its freedom of speech and Religion to share with ones congregation that candidate X does not support the Biblical record.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pastors participating in the Alliance Defense Fund’s “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will preach from their pulpits Sept. 28 about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking political office.  The pastors will exercise their First Amendment right to preach on the subject, despite federal tax regulations that prohibit intervening or participating in a political campaign.

“Pastors have a right to speak about Biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment.  No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.  “If you have a concern about pastors speaking about electoral candidates from the pulpit, ask yourself this:  should the church decide that question, or should the IRS?”

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an event associated with the ADF Pulpit Initiative (www.telladf.org/church), a legal effort designed to secure the First Amendment rights of pastors in the pulpit.  A document explaining what the Pulpit Initiative is and is not is available at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/WhatIsPI.pdf.

“ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit.  Churches can decide for themselves that they either do or don’t want their pastors to speak about electoral candidates.  The point of the Pulpit Initiative is very simple:  the IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status.  We need to get the government out of the pulpit,” said Stanley.

Stanley explained that, contrary to the misunderstandings of many, tax-exempt status is not a “gift” or “subsidy” bestowed by the government.

“Churches were completely free to preach about candidates from the day that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 until 1954.  That’s when the unconstitutional rule known as the ‘Johnson Amendment’ was enacted,” explained Stanley.  “Churches are exempt from taxation under the principle that there is no surer way to destroy religion than to begin taxing it.  As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, the power to tax involves the power to destroy.  The real effect of the Johnson Amendment is that pastors are muzzled for fear of investigation by the IRS.”

After Sept. 28, ADF plans to provide via news release a list of pastors who participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

In 1954 then Senator Johnson offered an amendment that was passed.  The Amendment was inserted into the  IRS code with out any debate or discussion.  The Johnson Amendment shaped the IRS code for more then 50 years. 

 In 1954, Congress saw the need to separate charities and churches from politics. An amendment was offered on the floor of the Senate by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson. 
 
The Johnson amendment is found within the well-known section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In its present form, the law states that charities, including churches, are not allowed to “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements) any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” 

Freedom of speech and religious liberty are essential elements of our democracy. But the Supreme Court has in essence held that tax exemption is a privilege, not a right, stating, “Congress has not violated [an organization’s] First Amendment rights by declining to subsidize its First Amendment activities.”

The rule against intervention by charities and churches in political campaigns has been entrenched in the law for over a half-century. Congress enacted the law. The Courts upheld it. Our job at the IRS is to educate the public and charities about the law and to enforce it in a fair and evenhanded manner.

In 2004 the IRS began enforcing the Politiking by Churches and found some 84 groups that violated the, “Code”.

Sunday’s action will cause Johnson’s Amendment that found itself in the IRS code challenged.  The expectation is that the court will be interjected into the question.  The Internal Revenue Service will be challenged if it has a right under the consitution to prohibit free speech in religion both of which were not to be infringed or a law made to limited either.

Just one thought, what would be the reason the framers would put the Freedoms of Speech, Press, and Religion within the same amendment?  Could it be that the people, press, and religion be the forth componet of a free state.  To call into question its activities? 

Related Items:

  • Pulpit Initative
  • IR-2006-36, IRS Releases New Guidance and Results of Political Intervention Examinations
  • FS-2006-17, Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations 

Related NowPublic Stories:

Christian radicals declare holy way on IRS by Dunkleburg

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Pastors to Endorse Candidates from the Pulpit on Sunday

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