Americans United for Separation of Church and State recently announced that it sent over 60,000 letters to churches across the country, warning them from becoming involved in “partisan politicking” during this election season.  The letter tries to intimidate churches by ominously warning “If the IRS determines that your house of worship has engaged in unlawful intervention, it can revoke the institution’s tax-exempt status or levy significant fines on the house of worship or its leaders.”

Letters like this are a favorite tactic of AU.  For years now, it has attempted to intimidate churches into silence during election season.  But here’s the problem.  AU is using an unconstitutional law to try and intimidate and scare churches.

The Johnson Amendment, upon which AU bases its letter, is blatantly unconstitutional.  Under the First Amendment, the pastor has the right to determine what is said from the pulpit, not the IRS.

It’s ironic that an organization committed to the “separation of church and state” is arguing for more governmental monitoring and control of churches and pastors.  AU wants the IRS to monitor a pastor’s sermon, and to censor that pastor if the IRS agent happens to think that the pastor crosses the line.  This is especially problematic because the line of what is prohibited under the Johnson Amendment is very fuzzy.  That makes it convenient for AU to argue that churches have crossed the line when in fact they have not.

It’s time to remove the Johnson Amendment from the hands of AU.  It has been used as a weapon of intimidation against churches for far too long.  That’s why Pulpit Freedom Sunday is so important.  Because the whole goal of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is to protect the sanctity of the pulpit and to prevent the IRS, or radical groups like AU, from intimidating churches.  If you are a pastor, go to www.pulpitfreedom.org and sign up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday on October 7.

Read Alliance Defending Freedom’s response letter to the AU letter.