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World Magazine just published an article about how a number of pastors are “taking aim at the rule banning political speech in churches.”  The article highlights Alliance Defending Freedom’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a growing movement of pastors who believe that they have the right to speak freely from their pulpits on the issue of candidates and elections and not be punished by the government if they choose to do so.  The article quoted Bishop Aubrey Shines, Senior Pastor of Glory to Glory Ministries in Tampa, Florida:

“We should ignore political parties, and, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., measure [candidates] by the content of their character…  Let’s see if they measure up to some standard of morality that we would be comfortable with as believers in Christianity.”

Bishop Shines is exactly right.  For the first almost two hundred years of American history, pastors spoke boldly from the pulpit about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking public office. That changed with the passage of the Johnson Amendment in 1954.  But, as the World article notes, pastors are beginning to push back against this unconstitutional law that threatens their ability to speak freely on the biblical perspective of the candidates seeking office.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is coming up next year on October 5, 2014.  If you are a pastor would you consider being one of the first to sign up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2014?  You can get more information and sign up at www.pulpitfreedom.org.  Join the growing movement of pastors across the country courageously standing for the freedom of the pulpit.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

Church security is not a particularly popular topic. No one wants to think that my church would ever be targeted for – well, the unthinkable. But unfortunately the unthinkable does happen and you’ll want to be prepared if it happens to your church.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) recently released a new guide to help churches develop emergency plans. This 34-page document lists basic steps that churches can take to identify threats, develop security goals, and then construct and implement emergency plans.

Although the FEMA guide contemplates all types of emergency situations – including natural disasters and medical emergencies – it is particularly helpful in formulating a response to human threats, and even active shooter situations. Knowing what to do before, during, and after an incident can minimize the impact on church property and avoid loss of life.

The complexity and particular details of the security plan will vary by church. Alliance Defending Freedom has developed general security recommendations and a security FAQ, both of which are available here on our Speak Up Church website. There are also numerous church security resources online, such as the National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management. Check out these resources, and then make sure your church has a security plan.

One of the first questions we are usually asked by pastors whose states have redefined marriage and adopted same-sex “marriage” is whether they will be required to allow use of their church buildings for same-sex “wedding” ceremonies.  This is not an unreasonable question considering that at least one city has considered forcing churches to allow use of their buildings for same-sex “weddings.”  But the very simple answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.”  Churches do not have to allow use of their facilities in ways that are inconsistent with their biblical beliefs.

Church buildings are private property and are used primarily for the exercise of religion.  As such, the use of church buildings is cloaked with First Amendment protection both under the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause.  If the government attempts to force a church to use its private property in ways that are inconsistent with its religious beliefs, the government would violate the church’s First Amendment rights.

Put simply, a church has a right to only allow uses of its facilities that are consistent with its religious beliefs and to deny all other uses.  No church should ever feel compelled to open its buildings for use in a same-sex “wedding” ceremony.

The best way to protect your church is to adopt a facility usage policy that outlines the religious nature of the church buildings and restricts usage of the facility to uses that are consistent with the church’s biblical beliefs.  It is always best to adopt a policy governing the use of the facility because a policy is powerful evidence of the church’s beliefs and practice regarding use of its buildings. And if your church adopts a policy, it should follow that policy consistently.

Alliance Defending Freedom has prepared a sample facilities usage policy for churches. This policy is crafted to allow churches to make the decision as to what uses they will allow and to ensure that the church has the ability to approve uses consistent with its biblical beliefs and to deny all other requests to use the church buildings. Download the policy today and consider having your church adopt it.

And if your church is ever told that it must allow use of its facilities for something that is inconsistent with the church’s beliefs, contact our attorneys to review the facts. We want to ensure that the church remains free to minister through its church buildings in ways that are consistent with its religious faith.

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by Pastor Nathan Cherry, The Family Policy Council of West Virginia.

The issues of life and marriage are not merely cultural, social, or political issues. They are biblical moral issues. Unfortunately, marriage and the sanctity of life have been so politicized that many pastors have failed in their duties to preach and teach in light of the Gospel.

Unwilling to offend anyone in their church, many pastors have abandoned biblical preaching on marriage and life in favor of a more appealing message of God’s love. To be sure, the message that God loves all people is important. But refusing to engage these moral issues facing our congregations is a disservice that has led to misunderstanding and lack of biblical literacy on these topics. The shepherds charged with guarding the flock have been asleep while the wolves have crept in and led the sheep astray.

I hear the excuses all the time. The one I get most often from fellow pastors is that they don’t preach on “political” issues because they only preach the Gospel and the Bible. This is a poor attempt to sound spiritual while failing to engage biblical moral issues in the church. The idea that the sanctity of life is not found within Scripture is absurd. Remember what God said about offering children to Molech (Lev. 18:21, 1 Kings 11:7)? This provides a biblical basis for preaching and teaching against abortion and standing for life. Ravi Zacharias said it this way:

“Can we really carry a burden for the world if we don’t carry a burden for every human life?”

A truly Gospel-centric pastor will no more be silent on the evils facing our culture than he will be silent on sin and repentance. Life is not a political issue. It is a biblical moral issue.

The same can be said regarding the definition of marriage. God created and ordained marriage. He defined marriage, Jesus affirmed that definition, and until God changes His mind no one has the right to redefine marriage. If anyone should be outspoken on the issue of marriage in all its facets, it should be the church. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church and as such should be fiercely defended by the church. And yet, too many pastors have watched silently as families fall apart, and marriage is given a bad name, all while we see the relationship between man and God distorted.

Not all are standing silent though. I’m encouraged by the pastors I’ve watched move from a place of inaction to a place of bold action. For me, this signals a growing trend back to Gospel-centered sermons on critical issues our society is facing. Ultimately the result will be well-equipped disciples prepared to engage a lost society around them. We need pastors willing to dive deep into all the issues encompassing these topics. This means talking about embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. It also means talking about divorce, pre-marital counseling, cohabitation, gender roles, and fidelity. We cannot be satisfied with shallow sermons that leave pressing questions unanswered. We must be willing to fully engage these topics with an aim of producing mature followers of Christ capable of critical thought and defending the Gospel!

And why do we do this? Why do we defend life and biblical marriage and engage in these conversations? Because the Gospel is worth it. These conversations provide an opportunity to share the Gospel with a very confused and lost community. We get to tell people that our convictions are based on Scripture and that the grace of Jesus allows us to stand firm even when the culture turns. Our convictions are not rooted in ourselves as if we are somehow great, moral people. Our convictions are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus because He is worth it.

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Recently, Lifeway conducted a research poll containing some startling statistics that reveal where public opinion stands in relation to same-sex “marriage” and the acceptance of homosexual behavior. The poll reported that 58 percent of those surveyed believe that same-sex “marriage” is a civil rights issue just like age, race, and gender. The narrative by those who want to redefine marriage that same-sex “marriage” is a “civil right” seems to have taken hold.

Some of the other research findings are:

- 63 percent agree and 27 percent disagree that pastors should be allowed to refuse to officiate same-sex weddings if they are made legal in their state;

- 58 percent agree and 33 percent disagree that photographers should be allowed to refuse to work same-sex weddings if they are made legal in their state;

-40 percent agree and 52 percent disagree that rental halls should be allowed to refuse to rent out their facilities for same-sex weddings if they are made legal in their state;

These statistics should be a wake-up call for pastors who think that they can avoid preaching about these issues. Public opinion on the issues of same-sex “marriage” and homosexual behavior is shifting dramatically. What are you as a pastor doing to counter this shift?

The Supreme Court is poised to render decisions on two cases by the end of June that could redefine marriage. Before the Supreme Court has its say, shouldn’t America’s pastors be heard about what God says on the subject?

Make your voice heard by participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday on June 9, 2013. Make sure your congregation knows where the Church stands on marriage. The Bible has not changed.  God’s Word remains true that homosexual behavior is wrong and that marriage is as God Himself defined it in the beginning pages of Scripture – between one man and one woman only.  Public opinion cannot change Truth. But Truth must be proclaimed to be believed and adopted.  And that is where your role as a pastor comes in. You are to proclaim the Truth of God’s Word “in season and out of season.” (2 Tim. 4:2).  After all, God’s Word is profitable for, among other things, teaching and correction. (2 Tim. 3:16). But, as the Apostle Paul reminds pastors, how are others to hear God’s Truth without someone preaching to them? (Rom. 10:14-15).

The fact of the matter is that our society desperately needs to hear what the Creator of marriage and sexual behavior says about what He created. That’s what Pulpit Freedom Sunday this year is all about – marriage. Pastor, please do not let this opportunity pass you by. Go to www.pulpitfreedom.org and sign up to participate either on June 9 or on a Sunday as close to that as you can. Stand together with hundreds of your fellow pastors from across the country proclaiming God’s Truth to a society that is in great need of hearing it.

It is vital that you participate because, to be candid, there’s a lot of work to be done. And, as a pastor, you are in a position to be heard. You can make a difference in your congregation, in the community, and eventually throughout the culture.

For resources to help you construct your sermon, please visit our Marriage Resource Page on www.pulpitfreedom.org.

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