Pulpit Freedom Sunday: Pastors Say Enough Is Enough
Pastors across America are joining together this Sunday to protest an Internal Service Revenue law that has limited what they can say from the pulpit.
The initiative, called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” comes two days after legislators proposed a bill that would reinstate pastors’ and churches’ rights to speak freely.
The Free Speech Fairness Act was introduced by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. and Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., in an effort to repeal the 1954 Johnson amendment. The law bars all non-profits, including churches, from active involvement in political campaigns, including supporting or opposing candidates.
“For almost the first 200 years in America, pastors spoke freely and boldly from their pulpit about the issues of the day, including candidates running for office,” said the Alliance Defending Freedom website, a conservative legal group that started “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” in 2008 to challenge the Johnson Amendment.
“The IRS doesn’t feed the hungry. The IRS doesn’t comfort the hurting. And the IRS definitely doesn’t heal the broken. A pastor’s pulpit should be accountable to God alone, and the future of religious freedom in America depends on it,” it read.
So far, 4,100 pastors have signed up for “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.”
“The ultimate goal of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is to restore a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing government censorship or punishment,” Erik Stanley, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNN. “The IRS currently holds the power to impose legal sanctions on a church for something its pastor preaches from the pulpit.”
“Until 1954, America’s pastors had the right to speak freely, they exercised that right responsibly,” Stanley continued. “Churches were not turned into political action committees and party bosses did not set up shop in the basement of churches. Instead, pastors spoke out as they believed their faith intersected with something that was happening in an election. Pastors should have the right to decide that issue for themselves.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has pledged to repeal the Johnson Amendment if he takes office.
During his speech at the Values Voter Summit last month, Trump said he would change how the evangelical and religious community are being singled out.
“If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach, if they want to talk about politics, they’re unable to do so. If they want to do it, they take a tremendous risk that they lose their tax-exempt status,” he said.
Trump supporter Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, stressed that although pastors don’t need to choose a candidate, they should have the freedom to speak openly with their congregation.
“As a pastor, you have a biblical responsibility to speak to your congregation and help them understand the issues and how they line up with Scripture,” he said. “We’re simply going down the list of biblical issues like life and human sexuality and marriage and speaking to what Scripture has to say and juxtaposing that with the positions of the candidates.”
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