According to a Christian Post article, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AC) “is calling on the Internal Revenue Service to look into allegations that Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., is violating restrictions for posting a link to a pro-family organization on its website.” What restrictions? The First Amendment does not prohibit churches from speaking out on any issue. The amendment is so clear that the people at AU almost never cite it:
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.
Notice that the prohibition is directed at Congress, our nation’s national law-making body. It can’t establish a religion and it can’t prohibit the free exercise of religion. Here’s what Rob Boston, Communications Director with AU, had to say: “A church cannot link or direct people to an organization telling people how to vote. . . . All nonprofits, including churches, cannot endorse or oppose candidates. The IRS does warn nonprofits about linking to campaign-related websites.” To prohibit a church from linking to any site for any reason is a violation of the First Amendment. Notice that the First Amendment gives everybody, churches included, to speak about religion, write about religion, congregate about religion, and “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” the very thing this church is trying to do and Mr. Boston says it can’t do.
To say it bluntly and boldly, Mr. Boston is lying. His goal is to intimidate pastors and churches. No church has ever lost its tax-exempt status for speaking out on issues or endorsing candidates, and he knows it.
Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson warned churches not to speak out on political issues. He claimed that churches that violate IRS regulations could lose their tax-exempt status and be forced to pay a ten percent excise tax on all donations. I would like to see the IRS try to defend the position in court based on the First Amendment. It can’t be done, and Mr. Boston knows it. Notice that Mr. Boston cites the IRS, not the First Amendment.
Intimidating churches has been going on for a long time. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of AU, has been monitoring the content of Sunday sermons since 2004. If these self-appointed snitches don’t like what they hear, that is, if what a pastor says is “too political” and contrary to a liberal political agenda, they will send video and audio tapes to the IRS for investigation. The goal, of course, is to get a church’s tax-exempt status revoked, something the IRS has never done. A 2006 IRS report on the subject was designed to strike fear into pastors who are already intimidated by a threat of an audit.
There are no constitutional prohibitions against churches speaking out on political issues or endorsing candidates. We got into this mess when in 1954 a law was rammed through Congress by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson to restrict churches from speaking freely on topics they have addressed for nearly two millennia. The following is from the IRS:
The ban on political campaign activity by charities and churches was created by Congress more than a half century ago. The Internal Revenue Service administers the tax laws written by Congress and has enforcement authority over tax-exempt organizations. Here is some background information on the political campaign activity ban and the latest IRS enforcement statistics regarding its administration of this congressional ban.
In 1954, Congress approved an amendment by Sen. Lyndon Johnson to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity. To the extent Congress has revisited the ban over the years, it has in fact strengthened the ban. The most recent change came in 1987 when Congress amended the language to clarify that the prohibition also applies to statements opposing candidates.
This so-called ban is a direct violation of the First Amendment. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law. . . .” In 1954, Congress made a law. The logic is simple. Congress violated the Constitution. This makes the law null and void.
If you are a pastor who believes in the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment and want to challenge these leftist organizations and the IRS, then I have a deal for you. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group, will defend you.
In response to more than 50 years of threats and intimidation by activist groups wielding the Johnson Amendment as a sword against the Church, ADF began the Pulpit Initiative in 2008. The goal of the Pulpit Initiative is simple: have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional — and once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.
ADF is actively seeking to represent churches or pastors who are under investigation by the IRS for violating the Johnson Amendment by preaching biblical Truth in a way that expresses support for — or opposition to — political candidates. ADF represents all of its clients free of charge.
Don’t be bullied. It’s time to take a stand for Jesus Christ. Your future and the future of your children are at stake. If you want more information, go to the Alliance Defense Fund site at http://speakupmovement.org/church/LearnMore/details/4702