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David Fleming, Senior Pastor, Champion Forest Baptist Church : Duty To Lead

Posted on June 4th, 2013 Religious Freedom | 2 Comments »

David Fleming, Senior Pastor, Champion Forest Baptist Church, speaks about a pastor’s duty to lead his people and follow God.

Watch & Listen >> http://alln.cc/XNcYfS
Protect and promote the rights of our churches.

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Pastors, We’ve Got a Lot of Work To Do

Posted on June 3rd, 2013 Churches and Politics,Marriage | 5 Comments »

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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IRS Apologizes, More Apologies Necessary

Posted on May 30th, 2013 Churches and Politics | No Comments »

Erik Stanley’s column looks at the apology the IRS offered for targeted conservative groups, and points out the apology isn’t sufficient because the IRS bullying continues—as it has for nearly 60 years—via the Johnson Amendment.

In fact, the IRS has been exercising that kind of power since 1954 with the Johnson Amendment, which allows it to censor a pastor’s sermon from the pulpit.

The Johnson Amendment prohibits “participating in or intervening in” a political campaign “on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for public office.” The IRS has interpreted this over the years to say that churches cannot “directly or indirectly” participate in a campaign. Yet there is no definition of what it means to “indirectly” participate in a campaign.

Titled “IRS apologizes, more apologies necessary” – it can be viewed here

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Churches and Conservative Groups Targeted by the IRS

The revelations about the IRS targeting conservative groups seem to keep coming.  According to Fox News, the IRS targeting went broader than originally reported. Apparently, the IRS’ additional scrutiny “went beyond targeting ‘Tea Party’ and ‘patriot’ groups to include those focused on government spending, the Constitution and several other broad areas.”

Michigan representative Mike Rogers was on Fox News Sunday where he said: “The conclusion that the IRS came to is that they did have agents who were engaged in intimidation of political groups… I don’t care if you’re a conservative, a liberal, a Democrat or a Republican, this should send a chill up your spine. It needs to have a full investigation.”

This news is bad.  And it should send a chill up our spines to know that a very powerful branch of the federal government was specifically targeting political groups with which it disagreed.  Such behavior is more fitting in an authoritarian style of government and should have no place in our constitutional republic.  It is chilling to be labeled, even in a indirect way, as an enemy of the state and to have the power of the federal government arrayed against you.

But what should be reported is that the targeting by the IRS goes even deeper than what is just reported.  Because the IRS has been targeting churches since the passage of the Johnson Amendment in 1954.  There is no difference between what the IRS has been caught doing with conservative groups and what the IRS has done to churches for the last 59 years.  Both are intimidation.  Imagine the impact of a system of intimidation targeting a particular group left unchecked for over half a century.  Because that is exactly what has happened with America’s churches.

The Johnson Amendment was passed in 1954 because Senator Lyndon Johnson did not like the views of his political opponents.  It was a naked attempt to keep the reins of raw power in his own hands and to silence non-profit groups who opposed his reelection because they believed he was soft on communism.  Johnson devised a clever way to target these groups, and his amendment to 501(c)(3) of the tax code has since been applied to intimidate churches and pastors across the country into silence on the moral qualifications of candidates and the positions they hold.

Free speech is a fragile thing and it needs breathing space to exist.  The power of government can all too easily squelch dissent.  In 1926, The U.S. Supreme Court stated that vague laws chill free speech because “People of common intelligence must necessarily guess at [the law’s] meaning and differ as to its application.”  What this means is that if the government enacts a vague speech regulation, people will not know where the line is between what is permissible and what is prohibited.  Thus, they will “chill” their own speech.  Stated more simply, people will not speak at all if there is uncertainty over whether the power of government will come down on them if they say something that might violate the law.  This is what we awe seeing first hand with the revelations of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.  And this has been the problem with the Johnson Amendment and the IRS’ vague regulations enforcing it.  The law does not give any certainty over what is allowed and what is permitted from the pulpits of America’s churches.  So pastors, concerned that they might say something that would trigger the enforcement power of the IRS (a very powerful government agency), stay silent.

It’s good to shine the light on to the private and devious machinations of the federal government when those occur.  But let’s recognize that conservative groups have not been the only ones in the crosshairs of the IRS.  America’s churches have suffered for too long under the intimidation of the IRS.  The best way to shine the light on that intimidation is to stand in the face of it.  That’s why we launched Pulpit Freedom Sunday. And that’s why we hope that if you are a pastor, you will go today to sign up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  It’s time for the IRS to stop using its power to squelch free speech and freedom of religion of America’s churches.

 

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

IRS Apologizes: More Apologies Necessary

The IRS recently apologized for targeting conservative groups with audits and investigations during the 2012 election.  In some cases, the IRS asked about political affiliations, lists of donors, and family members’ activities.  Apparently, the groups were targeted because they had the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names.  An IRS official apologized, saying, “That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review… The IRS would like to apologize for that.”

What the IRS did here is unconstitutional.  It is always outrageous when the coercive powers of government are used for political intimidation.  And I am glad that the IRS has apologized for its actions.  But this story illustrates the problem when we allow government agencies and officials to exercise unfettered power to enforce vague and ambiguous laws.

The IRS has in fact been exercising that kind of power since 1954 with the Johnson Amendment that allows it to censor a pastor’s sermon from the pulpit.  The Johnson Amendment prohibits “participating in or intervening in” a political campaign “on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for public office.”  The IRS has interpreted this over the years to say that churches cannot “directly or indirectly” participate in a campaign.  But there is no definition of what it means to “indirectly” participate in a campaign.  The IRS tells churches that it must consider “all the facts and circumstances” to determine when a church has violated the Johnson Amendment.  Basically, this means that it won’t tell churches with precision what speech violates the Johnson Amendment and instead will wait and evaluate everything after the fact to then determine if the church has violated the law.  The IRS even went so far as to say that a church could violate the Johnson Amendment by the use of “code words” where it doesn’t even have to name a candidate specifically but if it speaks in a certain way that the IRS believes supports or opposes a candidate, then that could violate the law.

The point here is that the IRS enforcement of the Johnson Amendment is a situation particularly susceptible to abuse of power.  The IRS is unaccountable for who it investigates, when it investigates, or even whether it investigates violations of the Johnson Amendment.  It issues vague pronouncements designed to intimidate churches into silence out of fear of an IRS audit or penalties.  The IRS’ recent apology demonstrates that it has broad, coercive, and unconstitutional powers that can be used improperly to chill speech and intimidate the exercise of constitutional rights.  But that’s what the IRS has been doing with the Johnson Amendment since 1954. The situation is even worse when considering the fact that the Johnson Amendment was passed in the first place to silence political opponents of Senator Lyndon Johnson.

The Johnson Amendment is an unconstitutional restriction on a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit and it allows the IRS to utilize intimidation to enforce the law and chill constitutionally protected speech.  Alliance Defending Freedom has been fighting the Johnson Amendment and its unconstitutional effects on churches and pastors.  That’s why we started Pulpit Freedom Sunday in 2008.  If you are a pastor, sign up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday on June 9, 2013.  This year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday is about marriage, but it remains about the broader principle that no IRS official should ever tell a pastor what he can or cannot say from the pulpit.

The recent IRS apology is a beginning.  But the IRS should also apologize for 59 years of intimidation of pastors and churches.  It’s time to end the Johnson Amendment’s regime of censorship.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

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