Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), presidential candidate, and now political commentator for the Fox News channel recommend to Baptist pastors that they should consider rejecting tax exempt status for their churches because of concerns of not being able to speak freely about social and political issues. He told a group of Southern Baptist pastors the following as reported by the Associated Baptist Press:
“The recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting people of faith — people who are conservative, people who are pro-Israel — and have been picking out the parts of belief and speech and faith that government seems to approve and that which it doesn’t approve has brought up a very important reality that I think, sooner or later, as believers, we need to confront.”
mike Huckabee isn’t the only person misleading pastors about their tax-exempt status. IRS regional manager Peter Lorenzetti told the Faith Leaders Summit that that pastors in their official capacity are not permitted to endorse or oppose candidates, campaign for them, or make contributions to their campaigns. Pastors can, as private citizens, do these things.
The First Amendment does not prohibit churches from speaking out on any issue including political ones, even if they are tax exempt. The amendment is so clear that liberals 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.
Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) engaged in similar constitutional fiction: “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, the right to speak about religion, write about religion, congregate about religion, and “petition the government for a redress of grievances” about religion and anything else.
The Church is a parallel government and is tax immune. Civil government is not the only government in America. Churches exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction over doctrine, the sacraments, and discipline, while civil governments have jurisdiction over civil courts and enumerated civil laws. This jurisdictional separation has been a mainstay of freedom in America. (For a comprehensive study of this topic, see my book God and Government: A Biblical Historical, and Constitutional Study. It comes in book form and various electronic formats.)
Intimidating churches has been going on for a long time. 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. If enough churches challenged the supposed prohibitions, the IRS wouldn’t know what to do. At the moment, the fear factor is enough to keep churches in check.
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:
“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 prohibiting churches from speaking out on political issues and endorsing candidates. The logic is simple. Since Congress passed such a law, then 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 Defending Freedom (ADF), 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 and nation are at stake.
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