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Free and Strong America

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pastors Challenge Free Speech Bigotry

The Christian Post is reporting on a growing phenomenon among Christian churches in which pastors are speaking freely on political matters from the pulpit and thus challenging the so-called Johnson amendment...

"This Sunday, more than 400 pastors will be using their pulpits to preach politics and challenge the Internal Revenue Service's regulations that restrict religious leaders from endorsing candidates and discussing policies with their congregations.

Oct. 2 is Pulpit Freedom Sunday, and this year Alliance Defense Fund and its supporters have quadrupled its participation from last year. Last year, 100 pastors committed to the event, but this year, registration lists are exploding, with 475 pastors who will participate in the event...

While no participants of the project actually lost their tax-exempt status, several churches have been subject to a possible investigation after preaching the biblical view of government policies and politicians in their churches.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed an IRS complaint against Warroad Community Church in 2008 after Minnesota pastor Gus Booth taught his congregation what the Scripture says about abortion and same-sex marriage and compared those teachings to candidates' positions.

In 2009, a California-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group filed an IRS complaint against the Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, after it announced it would gather signatures for a voter referendum on the state's same-sex marriage law."

If I may be allowed to weigh in on the topic, my views on this are as follows.

My main concern on religious freedom in the pulpit is allowing pastors to preach through all sections of the Bible and not have to worry about reprisals from the government. For example, a Swedish pastor was sentenced to a month in prison after delivering a sermon critical of homosexuality. I don't doubt for a moment that free speech bigots in this country would gladly do the same since it took seven years for a Canadian pastor to be cleared of hate crime charges after writing a letter to the editor of an Alberta newspaper. I would never want to see the government hold 'tax-exempt status' held over the heads of churches for the refusal to accept the radical agendas offered up by Gay Inc. or the abortion industry.

Another item brought up in the above, cited article is the endorsement of specific political candidates from the pulpit. I think Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention summed up the optimal way candidates could be seen as 'endorsed' by a specific church.

"We (Southern Baptists) don't believe that pastors and churches should be endorsing candidates," he said. "We believe that candidates should be endorsing them and their values and beliefs.”"

I believe that candidates seeking out churches that reflect their values and themselves striving for their endorsements is the best way to proceed here. The only way I could see a church specifically endorsing a political candidate is if a particular candidate's position[s] on certain social issues is SO extreme, well, I can then see how some churches could feel compelled to endorse a candidate in certain election races. That doesn't mean that such instances are highly optimal or even desired. I admit that how one determines whether a candidate's position is extreme or not is a bit subjective and I welcome your feedback in the comment section below.

EDIT: I found an interesting article from 2008 that appeared in The Los Angeles Times featuring a dialogue between Barry Lynn of Americans United for Seperation of Church and State and the head of the Pulpit Initiative, Derek Stanley, if anyone is so interested in this topic. Link


Speedy G said...

The Johnson Amendment sounds like a violation of BOTH the Establishment AND Free Exercise Clauses. Telling private individuals that they can't endorse political candidates is not the same as telling government employee's that they can't conduct political activities on government property. There is no "government property" or employment contract involved. Sounds like governmental "over-reach".... again.

Stormbringer said...

It amazed me that when REV. Jesse Jackson and REV. Al Unsharpton ran for president, that was fine. When leftist candidates spoke in churches and they took up collections, not a peep.

But when REV. Pat Robertson ran for president, they pulled the fake "Constitutional Separation of Church and State" and screamed like little girls.

Double standard MUCH?

By the way, I agree with the statement, "We should not be asking if God is on our side. Rather, we should be asking if we are on God's side". That is, obedient to him instead of forcing tendentious readings of Bible passages to fit our own agendas. Careful!

JD Curtis said...

After posting this, I spoke with my pastor today who has some experience in these matters.

He stated that churches certainly can endorse from the pulpit and not worry about losing their tax-exempt status... so long as such explicitly political services do not constitute any more than 5% of all sermons.

So during a 52 week year that would be, what? 3 political sermons? Certainly no more than 4.

I feel that a standard of no more than 4 political sermons per year is somewhat reasonable if it makes Big Brother happy. I wouldn't want to see it go any lower than that though.

Ross said...

Another aspect of this debate is the tendency of some of those those who are opposed to Christians being involved in politics to slur them as closet theocrats who want to hijack governments to bring about their version of the Kingdom of God on Earth. These slurs are baseless, and I doubt very much that it will ever happen anyway.

JD Curtis said...

Agreed Ross. It's amazing how so few people know that the political liberties enjoyed by Western democracies sprang forth as a direct result of the Christian religion.