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It seems as though a new article comes out each year arguing that religious organizations should not be tax exempt if they oppose a particular politically popular cause, such as abortion or same-sex “marriage.”  What many don’t realize is the IRS already conditions church tax exemption on the pastor’s willingness to forego telling his flock what the Bible has to say about the fitness of a particular candidate for office.  The Johnson Amendment prohibits pastors from endorsing or opposing a candidate for office from the pulpit, and this provision can be violated with “code words.”  So a pastor who encourages the congregation to only vote for candidates who are pro-life could be viewed by the IRS to have violated the Johnson Amendment and the church’s tax exempt status could be revoked.  This law is clearly unconstitutional as applied to churches.  ADF’s pulpit initiative is an effort to challenge it in court.  Pastors can learn more about this effort and sign up to participate at www.pulpitfreedom.org.  Information on what pastors can and cannot say from the pulpit is also available in a resource called “Guidelines for ‘Political Activities’ of Churches and Pastors” on the speakupmovement.org/church resource page.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

Anyone opposed to the acceptance of homosexual behavior as a healthy, normal, moral equivalent to heterosexuality is often accused of homophobia – an irrational fear of those engaged in homosexual behavior.  This same label is applied to any church that teaches biblical morality on the issue.  Recently, Bill Hybels, Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, had to defend his church’s  loving and biblical morality teachings against an attack from a homosexual activist who persuaded the head of Starbucks to breach his contract to speak at the church’s leadership summit.  Some churches, like Mt. Hope Church in East Lansing, Michigan, are sometimes even physically attacked by radical groups who support the homosexual agenda like BashBack! (an indication of irrational fear on their part).

But most pastors and churches I’m familiar with are like Willow Creek and love those caught up in homosexual behavior, wanting them to experience the freedom that Christ can give.  They don’t fear them, but they fear for them.  As Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently put it in his piece on the topic, “Our greatest fear is not that homosexuality will be normalized and accepted, but that homosexuals will not come to know of their own need for Christ and the forgiveness of their sins.”  Well said. If  churches truly love those who are engaged in sin that separates them from a right relationship with God, they cannot say sin is OK.  That truly would be hateful, not loving.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

In case you missed it, Barna published a study a couple of weeks ago that proves most Americans still think churches play an important role in their communities. The study “shows that three-quarters of U.S. adults believe the presence of a church is ‘very’ (53%) or ‘somewhat’ positive (25%) for their community.”  But the study also shows that about 20% of people don’t have any idea what benefits churches actually provide and only 14% believe the church should be instilling moral values in the community.

We’ve lost sight of the vital role churches play in our local communities in our nation as a whole. This is something our Founding Fathers had very specific ideas about.  George Washington said in his Farewell Address:  “And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure–reason & experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Our political system is built upon the idea that people should be able to govern themselves. But that idea presupposes a moral people and any parent of a two year old knows morality isn’t something that just comes naturally.  It must be taught and the church as the Body of Christ has the right and responsibility to do that teaching.

It’s tragic and dangerous that most people don’t see churches as providing a moral compass for communities. Churches and pastors must boldly step into that roll. Otherwise, someone or something else will. We all can see it’s already happening. The miracles of television and the internet put modern day “heroes” in our living rooms (and bed rooms) every night. Unfortunately, those heroes are usually Hollywood socialites or athletes who were never meant to model good morals (and usually don’t, with some notable exceptions).

Encourage your church to be a moral compass in your community today. If you’re worried about the legal ramifications of that, contact us at ADF by visiting our website at speakupmovement.org/church. We’ll provide you with information demonstrating that churches have the right to engage the community on moral issues, and we’ll have your back if that right is ever challenged.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

Max Hastings, in an article for Mail Online, writes:  “Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalized youngsters.” He goes on to observe that a lack of moral training has resulted in children that

“are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong. They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others. Their behavior on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it.”

Mr. Hastings is speaking in biblical terms. 2 Peter 2:10-14 says people who despise authority “blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish. They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!”

Accordingly, church leaders in England are reported to have roundly condemned the rioting, but is anyone listening? Not many. Only 15% of people in the UK attend church at least once per month.  That’s down about 35% since 1980, and this downward trend which began in the UK in the 1950s is expected to continue.

Max Hastings is correct that this lack of morality is a result of lack of training, but he never identifies who or what should be doing the training.  He laments that schools aren’t capable of completing this great task because they lack the support of parents or the government to force students to do anything. Unfortunately, he never takes the final step of identifying that institution that is best suited to instill moral values in the population:  the church.

As I often point out, the church’s role as the moral compass of society was recognized in the USA from the very beginning. George Washington  said in his Farewell Address that only a moral people can govern themselves and our religious institutions are charged with teaching that morality. Unlike the UK, our churches are still in a position to do that.  A 2010 Gallup poll shows about 43% of Americans attend church weekly, and 54% do so monthly (if I am reading the statistics correctly). More importantly, most pastors are willing to preach about controversial moral issues such as abortion and homosexual behavior. A 2008 a survey indicates only 23% don’t preach on the issue of homosexual behavior, 18% won’t preach on abortion, and 17% avoid the same-sex marriage issue.  That means 77% of pastors do address homosexual behavior, 82% will preach on abortion, and 83% teach about the biblical view of marriage.  Interestingly, the topic the highest percentage of pastors say they will not address is politics (38%).  As the debate regarding abortion and homosexual behavior becomes more political, one wonders if these pastors will stop teaching about these important issues.

ADF’s Pulpit Initiative is designed to encourage pastors to speak up on all moral issues – even if they are political.  People in the pew need to know whether their political leaders have the proper biblical perspective on topics like homosexual behavior and abortion. but many pastors fear their tax exempt status may be jeopardized if they speak out on moral issues that happen to be political because of the Johnson Amendment. For example, this law prohibits churches from criticizing a presidential candidate because he supports same-sex marriage. To learn more about the Pulpit Initiative and participate in ADF’s plan to challenge the Johnson Amendment in court, visit PulpitFreedom.org.

It certainly is encouraging that the majority of  Americans still attend church where most pastors are still willing to teach biblical morality. We must be diligent to protect this right and fulfill this responsibility. ADF is committed to doing its part of legally defending pastors when they do speak out on political issues. Please contact use at speakupmovement.org/church or 1-800- TellADF, if you or your pastor are ever challenged for speaking biblical truth. And encourage every pastor you know to keep up the good work. The alternative is unacceptable. A silent church leads to the amoral anarchy that’s plaguing the UK today.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

This bill is currently pending before Congress and could have a detrimental effect on the ability of churches to only hire individuals  that agree with their religious beliefs and live their lives accordingly.  If passed, ENDA would add “sexual orientation” to the list of characteristics upon which an employer cannot discriminate.  This is unlikely to have much direct effect on churches because Title VII allows religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion.  See Page 12 of our resource, Business With Conviction: Employer Religious Beliefs. But it could affect them indirectly if they have separate ministries such as schools or day care facilities that are not expressly religious and all employees are not required to subscribe to church doctrine.  A good summary of the potential implications of ENDA for churches written by Richard Hammar can be accessed here.  Well-crafted bylaws and employee handbooks will go a long way toward helping a church defend its ministries against this law, should it pass. Suggestions of what these documents should include can be found in our legal resource, “Job Descriptions & Religious Grounds for Limiting Employment” at speakupmovement.org/church.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

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