Churches defend their right to make political comments
"Dozens of pastors around the nation are challenging an Internal Revenue Service rule that anti-Christian activists often invoke when they want to silence the message of churches, according to the Alliance Defense Fund.
The organization has announced that more than 80 preachers are taking part in its second annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday this weekend. The pastors will preach Sunday sermons related to biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates or current government officials, exercising their constitutional right to free religious expression, the ADF said.
They will do so despite a "problematic" IRS rule that activists use when they want to silence the message of Christians, the ADF said. "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," ADF senior legal counsel Erik Stanley explained.
"ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit. On the contrary, the whole point is that churches should be allowed to decide for themselves what they want to talk about. The IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church's tax-exempt status. We need the government to get out of the pulpit," he said.
The censorship for church pastors has been in place since the Johnson Amendment was added to the Federal Tax Code in 1954. However, enforcement has been spotty and the results have been vague, even though critics of Christian churches contend it limits what they can say from the pulpit.
The IRS has repeatedly launched investigations of churches based on allegations from organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, whose officials have taken advantage of the vagueness to report church "offenses."