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Pulpit Freedom Sunday

This year we had a record number of pastors take part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. So far, 1,758 signed up to stand against the unconstitutional Johnson Amendment in 2014. That’s a total of 3,814 distinct pastors since we started in 2008. Watch a sample from a sermon from this past weekend.

But if you missed October 6th, it’s not too late. It doesn’t end with last Sunday: you can still join us, and preach a Pulpit Freedom sermon any time this year.

Visit PulpitFreedom.org to join the movement to end IRS control over your sermons. Sign the agreement statement, and if you can, preach an election sermon this year.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is not about endorsing the candidates of one party over another. It is about ending IRS oversight of the sermons preached in America. The IRS should not decide whether your sermon is “political” or “biblical.”  Our nation needs to fix the Johnson Amendment now, before it is too late.

Will you join the Pulpit Freedom Sunday movement?

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By Sarah Kramer, Marketing Campaign Coordinator

When I became old enough to vote, I had very little to draw from besides my parents’ political views. The one place that I thought might provide moral insight, as it had for other areas of my life, was my faith. But I found that the church spoke very little, if any, about political and social issues and even less about political candidates.

A recent Pew Research Center study shows I’m not the only one who wants to apply my faith to my politics.

The study, released last week, states that the American public has a “growing appetite for religion in politics.”

According to the poll, 72 percent of the public think religion is losing influence in American life. On top of that, 56 percent believe the fact that religion is losing its influence is a bad thing.

Some other findings in the poll include:

    • - 49 percent of Americans think churches and other houses of worship should express their views on day-to-day social and political issues. That’s up from 43 percent in 2010.
    • - The number of people who think churches should come out in favor of candidates increased from 24 percent in 2010 to 32 percent.
    • - Nearly 60 percent of those polled want members of Congress who have strong religious beliefs.

You might think that your faith has no place in politics. After all, didn’t Thomas Jefferson say there should be a “wall of separation between Church and State”?

Here’s the thing: The idea of “separation of church and state” has been taken out of context. Thomas Jefferson wrote this phrase to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut to reassure them that the government would not interfere with the practice of their faith – not that their faith would be totally removed from government and politics.

In fact, pastors preached freely on political topics and candidates from the American founding to the mid-1900s. They believed the church needed to be the moral compass for the nation.

And it was.

Pastors and churches were instrumental in ending slavery, for example.

The idea that their faith should be entirely taken out of the political sphere came much later.

Free speech from the pulpit was drastically restricted with the passage of the Johnson Amendment in 1954, which threatens churches with the loss of their tax-exempt status if the IRS deems a sermon “too political.” But today, some topics that are biblical are now considered “political,” such as marriage and the sanctity of life. Due to the Johnson Amendment, many pastors have simply stopped preaching on any “political” topics to avoid IRS scrutiny.

Now there is a movement of pastors seeking to end the Johnson Amendment and get the government out of their pulpits.

Will you join them?

Go to pulpitfreedom.org to learn more and to join your voice with the thousands of pastors that support restoring the moral influence of faith to politics.

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First Amendment says a pastor should determine his sermon, not the IRS

Pastors today may not remember a time when they could preach on political and social issues without fear of their church losing its tax-exempt, non-profit status.

But the current fear among pastors of preaching about candidates or an election was not always so pervasive.

Since the founding of our country, pastors enjoyed the freedom to speak boldly from their pulpit about the most crucial social and political issues of the day. In 1954, however, the carefully manipulated passage of one outrageous piece of legislation – the Johnson Amendment – profoundly undermined this crucial freedom.

Nearly 60 years later, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) convened a Commission to study, among other things, whether the Johnson Amendment should be amended or repealed.

The Commission was advised by panels of representatives from the non-profit sector, legal experts, and religious leaders.

After studying the issue, the Commission recommended amending the Johnson Amendment to restore the constitutional rights of free speech and free exercise of religion to churches and other non-profit organizations.

The Commission recommended amending the Johnson Amendment to allow:

1. Speech that would be no added cost or a very minimal cost to the organization (such as a sermon, not an expensive advertising campaign)
2. If the speech of the organization would cost more than that minimal amount, then the Johnson Amendment would only prohibit speech that clearly identifies candidates and directly calls for those candidates’ election or defeat.

This fix, if adopted, will relieve a great deal of pressure on churches and other non-profit organizations.  It will get the IRS out of the business of censoring what a pastor says from the pulpit and will go a long way to bringing clarity to the IRS’ enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.

ECFA’s proposal overrides the negative effects of the Johnson Amendment without even having to repeal it. It is a practical, realistic way to restore a fundamental right to churches and other non-profits that everyone, including Congress, can get behind.

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Shouldn’t pastors have the freedom to fearlessly speak Biblical truth on the political and social issues of the day?

That is exactly what this ECFA amendment seeks to do – restore the right of a pastor to decide what is said from the pulpit, not the IRS.

Today, there is a movement of pastors in the United States standing up for their free speech and free exercise of religion by signing up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday. This movement seeks to encourage Congress to consider and pass this reasonable amendment.

You can join them.

Go to www.pulpitfreedom.org to sign up. Then share this post on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.

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Atheist Lawsuit

The fact that the IRS has a checkered history of enforcing the Johnson Amendment should not come as a surprise to anyone.  Over the years, the IRS has seemed to give favored churches and groups a pass on the Johnson Amendment while cracking down on others.  The IRS has also issued regulations enforcing the Johnson Amendment that are unclear and unhelpful to pastors seeking to understand what the law prohibits.  Attorneys argue over what churches and pastors can and cannot do when it comes to elections.  How are pastors supposed to know with clarity what they are allowed to do?

The latest chapter in the sad saga of the IRS’ enforcement of the Johnson Amendment comes as the result of an atheist lawsuit against the IRS.  The lawsuit stems from a 2008 federal court ruling that struck down the IRS’ policies for how it audits churches because they did not comply with the Church Audit Procedures Act passed by Congress in 1984.  That law was intended to protect churches from politically-motivated audits by requiring a high level IRS official to approve all church audits.  In response to the Judge’s 2008 decision, the IRS appeared to stop auditing churches altogether.

Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit claimed that the IRS was giving preferential treatment to churches because it wasn’t enforcing the Johnson Amendment against them even though it was against other non-profit organizations.

The atheist group recently announced a settlement of its lawsuit. In the announcement, FFRF claimed that the IRS had provided it with assurances that it was in fact auditing churches and that it had procedures in place to continue auditing churches.  FFRF claimed that the settlement was a victory to “end church electioneering.”

So what do churches need to know about all of this?  First, ADF firmly believes that the Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional when it is used to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.  The IRS’ recent promise to FFRF that it will audit churches does not change the fact that the Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional.  Churches need to know that if the IRS does punish a church for something its pastor says from the pulpit, ADF will be there to defend the pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit and to argue that the Johnson Amendment should be declared unconstitutional.

Second, it is troubling that the IRS gave assurances to FFRF that it had procedures in place to audit churches in a way that complied with the Church Audit Procedures Act.  This is troubling because those procedures were never publicized and so we have no way of knowing if the procedures actually do comply with the law.  It is always troubling when a federal agency as powerful as the IRS operates in total secrecy.  That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom did a Freedom of Information Act request to the IRS to uncover the procedures the IRS says it has and bring them into the light of day.  America’s churches have a right to know they will be treated fairly by the IRS and the IRS cannot be allowed to follow secret procedures for auditing churches.

Overall, though, no pastor should ever fear the IRS when he stands in the pulpit to proclaim biblical truth.  That’s why it is important to sign up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  By participating, pastors across the country can stand united to tell the IRS that it has no business censoring a sermon.

If you are a pastor, you can go to www.pulpitfreedom.org.  There you will find different ways you can stand up to the IRS.  You can simply sign an agreement statement that the IRS should not censor a pastor’s sermon.  Or you can sign up to preach an election sermon along with hundreds of other pastors from across the country on October 5, 2014.

The IRS’ reign of intimidation and fear must come to an end.  And no atheist group should be able to use the IRS to further their purpose of pushing churches from the public square.  Go to www.pulpitfreedom.org and sign up to participate today.

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If pastors did not speak about the evils of slavery, where would we be today?

If pastors did not stand for women to be treated as more than property, how different would society look?

And if pastors today can’t speak for the unborn, who can?

When the government silences churches on topics like abortion and marriage because they are too political, we all suffer. Learn more from Pastor Jim Garlow as he explains how culture suffers severely when the church is silent on important issues of the day.

Only a pastor should have the authority to decide what is said from his pulpit, not the government.

Click here to sign up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday and join the growing number of pastors standing up to the IRS.

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