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, 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 here.
“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.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.