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By Pastor Kevin Baird

Pastor Kevin Baird

I have been a pastor for over 28 years, and for many of those years of ministry I preached under a misconception that many (if not most) pastors live under, as well. It’s the misconception the IRS perpetuates through the Johnson Amendment to the 501 (c)(3) code that restricts our rights as pastors to apply the Bible to what might be deemed “political.” For year, I avoided many topics from the pulpit because I mistakenly thought that if I broached that topic I could jeopardize the church’s tax-exempt status. There was always this subtle “fear” that the IRS would sweep in and impose some kind of monstrous repercussion.

As my ministry matured through the years and I became more convinced that the Bible is to be applied to every arena of life (including public policy discussions and “politics”), I came to this crossroads again. Would I stand, declare, and apply the whole Word of God to my congregation with regards to these subjects, or would I tacitly allow the IRS to be a content manager of my sermons? It was during this season that I was introduced to the great people of Alliance Defending Freedom. This amazing team of attorneys took the time to help educate and inspire me to press forward in not only my First Amendment right of free speech, but in all reality, my mandate from God to speak into the culture.

So, when I heard about the Pulpit Initiative and the scheduling of Pulpit Freedom Sunday, I immediately wanted to participate. This coming year will be my third official year of being a participating pastor. On that Sunday, I intentionally prepare a message that addresses a current public policy or “political” issue and use the Scripture to either endorse it or critique it. For example, this year I am considering using the topic: “A Biblical Referendum on the Policies of our Current Administration.” At the end of the message I will make what I consider to be a biblical conclusion concerning the election. I will then do what I have done in previous years.  I will make the message public through all our media venues and also send the IRS a copy. I have to admit in my first year of participation I did have a slight residue of the fear that I previously lived under. After all, how many of us have lived under that self-imposed censorship for years?

What was the outcome of doing that?

I have never been contacted by the IRS and, to be candid, I do not expect to be. My congregation has been incredibly supportive and grateful for my leadership in this regard. I suspect many congregations are waiting to cheer their pastors forward if only their pastor would take the step and participate.

One of the good feelings is knowing that behind my ministry is the incredibly capable Alliance Defending Freedom team who will bring the resources and legal expertise should my sermon ever be challenged by the government. I could not encourage pastors more emphatically to get involved with Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Shake off the fear, embrace your call, and become a part of a powerful movement of pastors on Pulpit Freedom Sunday, October 7, 2012.

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Speaking out on political and social issues requires special courage for pastors, many of whom walk a tightrope entwined of strands both practical and theological.

Persecution of churches is a subtle but very real – and growing – threat around the U.S. today. Pastors and church leaders who speak out boldly can suddenly find themselves facing new tax laws, zoning challenges, and even graffiti and vandalism from groups opposed to what a church teaches. American Christians long immunized from such aggressive opposition are often loath to see persecution as a privilege (Acts 5:41).

Nor is all the opposition external. Many pastors are understandably concerned that making strong, declarative statements about political candidates and/or politicized issues will alienate significant persons in or percentages of their congregation. The price for that kind of alienation may be measured in anything from tithe checks withheld to memberships dropped.

And yet: speaking out on the character of our leaders and the issues of our time is a clear mandate of Scripture, modeled throughout the Bible by prophets like Nathan and Jeremiah and preachers like Stephen and John the Baptist – not to mention Jesus Himself, who answered questions on still-hot topics like the meaning of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6), taxes (Matthew 22:21), and the character of public officials (Mark 8:15, Luke 13:32).

Clearly, those vested with the responsibilities of church leadership are expected to speak truth to – and about – power, whether that power is represented by political authority or other Christians en masse.

One of the most fascinating explorations of what it means to confront ungodly political leadership is detailed in the adventures of Elijah, in the book of 1 Kings, as he duels for the soul of Israel with weak-souled, selfish King Ahab and his implacably evil queen, Jezebel.

Both in one-on-one encounters (17:1, 18:8, 21:20) and before all the people (18:20ff.), Elijah bluntly confronted the monarch with his sins. But the prophet also offered Ahab messages of hope (18:41), and even looked out for his personal safety and welfare (18:44). His actions are reminiscent of those of then-still-private-citizen David toward King Saul, as recorded in 1 Samuel, and of Paul toward Felix and Agrippa (Acts 26).

The Bible never prompts us to mock our leaders, hate our leaders, or pray for their destruction – indeed, we are directed to treat all those in authority with unswerving respect (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:17). But the Bible also teaches that the highest respect we can give to anyone – government official or fellow church member – is to speak the truth to that person, in love (Ephesians 4:15).  Jesus declared Himself the ultimate embodiment of truth (John 14:6), so to speak truth is, quite literally, to speak – to reveal – Christ to the one we address.  Indeed, it’s impossible to give a faithful witness to anyone, whatever their station of life, unless we are willing to tell them the truth.

As spiritual leaders, pastors face an extraordinary and unique responsibility in this critical season, as Christians join their neighbors and strangers in communities coast to coast in making the choices of the ballot box, deciding not only candidates for national, state, and local offices, but political questions with enduring import for our country. Our prayers are with every conscientious pastor who braves the dangers of the pulpit and the public square …

… working to speak the truth of Christ not in vague generalities, from the safety of charming ecclesiastical clichés, but in firm, clear, straightforward, biblically-grounded specifics that take an unwavering stand on even the most divisive issues of our day.

May God give each of His servants, coast to coast, the courage and wisdom to discern His truth, communicate it in love, and accomplish His purpose for the people of America.

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When a man asks a woman to marry him, he asks her to share his name. When he joins a club, a team, or a church, he links his own identity to the group he is joining. Understandably, he wants the name to stand for something clear and meaningful.

For some time, many within our organization have been concerned that our name, Alliance Defense Fund, does not sufficiently, accurately convey who we are and what we do. It was the name chosen by our Founders, for good reasons at the time. Back then, we were not engaged in any direct litigation ourselves – we provided legal and financial resources for other Christian attorneys. So, the term “fund” was very appropriate.

Nowadays, though, we do our own litigating. We actively defend clients and engage the opposition. We are moving beyond our country’s borders, seeking out means and opportunities to protect the freedom of people of faith all over the world.

Alliance Defense Fund is now Alliance Defending Freedom“Alliance Defense Fund” did not really capture any of this very well. So, after thorough research, careful planning, and intense preparation, we are making a transition. Beginning this month, the new name of Alliance Defense Fund is “Alliance Defending Freedom.”

We want this new name to communicate two crucial themes: stewardship and reputation.

Our old name caused confusion for almost everyone – allies, Allied Ministry Friends, clients, the media. This is poor stewardship. The nature of the work we do requires us to secure resources and assure clients and allies by conveying quickly and clearly who we are, what we do, and why it matters. Anything that impedes this understanding is a hindrance to our ministry. It damages the efficiency, and ultimately, the impact of what we do, thereby, making it unworthy of the God who has given us our mission.

Our new name changes this. Alliance Defending Freedom tells people what is important to us: building alliances. It tells people what we do: we defend. It tells people what our goal is: freedom. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. It resonates. This is good stewardship.

Our reputation is what people think of when they hear our name. We do not want them thinking of us as a “fund.” We want them to associate us with freedom. We want them to know that we are passionate about defending freedom…that defending it is the mission of our lives…that we defend it “for faith” and “for justice.” This is why we have built our new logo around these two phrases – to affirm our purpose of opening doors for the Gospel, and to ensure equality before the law for people of faith.

We hope this new name will resonate with you because we value deeply all of those who stand with us, work with us, and fight with us in the cause of religious freedom.

After all, this is what our ministry has always been: an alliance defending freedom. With this rebranding, we are just making it official.

 

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Now that the dust has somewhat settled after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), it is important to consider what effect the Supreme Court’s decision has on churches.

The main impact for churches is that, in upholding Obamacare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate that employers provide contraceptive and abortifacient coverage for their employees is still in effect.  The HHS mandate is one part of Obamacare but it is the most direct threat to religious freedom posed by the law.  Under this mandate, employers must provide coverage in their health insurance plans for contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs such as “Plan B,” also called the “morning-after pill,” as well as a new drug named “ella” which is commonly called the “week-after pill.”  This mandate is imposed on employers regardless of their religious beliefs against such drugs.

Unless Congress repeals Obamacare, the law and the HHS mandate are here to stay.  Here are some important take-aways for churches.

Not just a Catholic issue

Churches must understand that the HHS mandate is not just a Catholic issue.  While the Catholic Church is particularly in the crosshairs because of its religious beliefs against contraception, the HHS mandate specifically requires coverage of more than just contraceptive drugs.  It also requires coverage of abortion-inducing drugs that every evangelical Christian should oppose.

Churches are exempt

Churches are exempt from the HHS mandate.  An exception in the law protects churches from having to provide healthcare coverage for their employees that include contraceptives or abortion-inducing drugs.  The exemption, though, is rather narrow and basically only applies to churches or integrated auxiliaries of churches.

Many religious organizations are not exempt

The exception in the law that exempts churches does not exempt many religious organizations, including those reaching out to the poor and needy.  Church, parachurch, and other religious ministries that have more than 50 employees are in danger of being subjected to the HHS mandate, regardless of their religious beliefs.  Christian businesses are not exempt from the HHS mandate.

Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuits against the HHS mandate will continue

Alliance Defending Freedom is currently involved in three separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate.  The lawsuits are on behalf of two Christian colleges, Louisiana College and Geneva College, and a Christian business, Hercules Industries.

There are several more lawsuits pending on the same issue in different courts.  These lawsuits will continue and, after the Supreme Court’s decision, are even more important.

What Must Churches Do?

There are several things that churches must do in light of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare.

1.  Be informed and aware of the direct threat posed to religious freedom by Obamacare.  Alliance Defending Freedom has put together a great two-minute video that exposes this threat. Share this video with your congregation.  We also have a resource page on our website that explains Obamacare and the HHS mandate.

2.  If your church has a ministry with more than 50 employees or you are part of a religious organization with more than 50 employees, be aware that the HHS mandate that is part of Obamacare may apply.  If you are concerned about the application of the HHS mandate, contact Alliance Defending Freedom to evaluate your situation.

3.  Provide support to Christian business owners in your congregation that are subject to the HHS mandate and help them  know how best to stand against this direct assault on religious freedom.

4.  If you are a pastor, preach a sermon that helps your congregation know and understand the HHS mandate and its application to people of faith.  Help them understand that this HHS mandate is not just a Catholic issue but is a direct threat to the religious freedom of all people of faith.

5.  Support Alliance Defending Freedom and our efforts to have the HHS mandate declared unconstitutional.  Put bluntly, these lawsuits are very expensive and we need your financial support and your prayers.  You can give online at this link.

The church must be engaged on this issue.  As Alan Sears, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, succinctly put it, “If the federal government can succeed in forcing people to violate their faith, it will have the power to force anyone to do anything.”  That’s how stark the battle lines are.  The voice of the church must be heard on this issue.  It’s time to speak up.

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Article by Nathan A. Cherry

Pastor Jim Garlow

“I just spent several days with Pastor Jim Garlow of the Skyline Wesleyan Church at a conference we both attended in Naples, Florida. It takes mere minutes to figure out that Pastor Garlow is a passionate preacher of God’s Word, boldly sharing the message of Jesus with anyone that will listen. It takes just another minute to conclude that Pastor Garlow loves America and refuses to see it fundamentally altered into an oppressive tyranny akin to other nations around the world. And to this end Pastor Garlow plans to preach a message that is typically viewed as “off limits” by the IRS. Further, Garlow will record it and send it to the IRS.

It’s all part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a day of speaking up to defy unconstitutional speech limitations the IRS and government try to bully pastor’s with in order to keep them silent (ironic for a group that wants to pass “anti-bullying” legislation). Come Sunday, Oct 7 Pastor Garlow an hundreds, perhaps thousands of other pastor’s will say “enough is enough” and preach biblically based messages on social issues like marriage, family, abortion, and religious freedom.”

Since the adoption of the “Johnson Amendment” in 1954 churches…..Read the rest at http://engagefamilyminute.com/2012/07/wanted-bold-pastors-to-preach-without-fear/

 

Check out www.PulpitFreedom.org for more information on Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

 

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