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Nearly 100 pastors from almost 30 different states participated in ADF’s third annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  Click here for a link to the list of participating churches.  These pastors spoke freely from their pulpits and applied Scripture’s teachings directly and specifically to the issue of candidates and elections. The goal of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is to protect a pastor’s right to speak freely from his pulpit without fearing government censorship or control and  to challenge the constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment.

By all accounts, Pulpit Freedom Sunday was a great success.  Pastors participating reported that their messages were well-received by the congregations.  One pastor reported that his message drew a standing ovation from the congregation that was the largest standing ovation he had received in over 40 years of ministry.  All of this is, of course, anecdotal, but I believe it is also powerful evidence that when pastors are free to speak Scriptural truth from their pulpits without fear, then the Church and society at large benefits.

I will have more to say about Pulpit Freedom Sunday in future blog posts (and especially will have more to say about some of the criticisms), but for now wanted to highlight that Pulpit Freedom Sunday was a success and that we are excited about the days to come as we stand together with pastors across the country to protect the right of a pastor to speak freely from the pulpit.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

We reported back in June that a preliminary ruling in Kennedy v. Villa St. Catherine eroded the freedom of religious organizations. In an unusual development (and as a result of some good lawyering by St. Catherine’s attorneys), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to go ahead and review that ruling early. ADF, on behalf of itself and the National Association of Evangelicals, recently filed an amicus brief in the case, urging reversal of the lower court’s dangerous ruling.

In the brief, we explain that the District Court undermined the freedom of religious organizations when it allowed the plaintiff’s religious harassment and retaliation claims against a Catholic institution to go forward.  Villa St. Catherine is a Catholic nursing center that the District Court recognized is exempt from the religious discrimination prohibitions of Title VII.  Congress wisely included this exemption so that religious organizations can maintain their religious character.  This makes constitutional and practical sense. A Jewish ministry to the poor should not have to adjust its workplace requirements so that a Muslim would feel comfortable accomplishing its religious goals, and vice versa.  When government entangles itself in the employment decisions of religious organizations, it violates the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom. 

The District Court’s order results in the nonsensical legal reality that St. Catherine could have simply fired Kennedy because she was not Catholic, but could not require her to dress and act in a way that does not conflict with the Catholic beliefs of the institution and the people it serves.  This makes an end run around Congress’ well-conceived efforts to protect religious organizations from liability when they ensure their employees’ religious beliefs comply with their own.  More significantly, it violates the religious freedom of religious organizations by exposing them to liability for simply teaching employees their doctrine, and requiring them to act in compliance with it while at work.

Hopefully, the Fourth Circuit will agree and undo the lower court’s unfortunate limitation of religious liberty.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

I observe in an article recently published in the Baptist Press that “even though freedom of religion is wounded, it’s certainly not dead.”  In 1991, the Supreme Court made it much more difficult to defend churches and religious people with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  But as the article demonstrates, we at ADF have had some recent success in this area.  That’s crucial because religious freedom is foundational to our political life. As George Washington said in his Farewell Address,“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

In fact, a lack of religious conviction can cause death. A recent study in Switzerland, titled “Swiss Losing Their Religion Are More Suicidal,” found that suicide rates are lower among people who are affiliated with Protestant or Catholic churches. This comes as no surprise to Christians, who find meaning to life in their relationship with God. ”For in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.  Religious freedom (and exercising that freedom) is vital to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

On Glenn Beck’s program, David Barton, President and Founder of Wallbuilders, discussed the Alliance Defense Fund’s Pulpit Initiative and the upcoming Pulpit Freedom Sunday.  Pulpit Freedom Sunday was started in 2008 by the Alliance Defense Fund.  It is a head-on constitutional challenge to the IRS’ ability to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.  On Pulpit Freedom Sunday, pastors will stand in their pulpit and speak biblical truth about the issue of candidates and elections.

In 2008, the first year of the Pulpit Initiative, 33 pastors from 22 states preached sermons about the candidates facing election that year.  They made specific recommendations about voting based on their biblical evaluation of the candidates.  Then, these courageous pastors took their sermons and sent them to the IRS, all in the hopes of sparking an IRS audit of the church that would lead to a constitutional challenge to the IRS’ ability to censor a pastor’s sermon.  In 2009, 84 pastors from 30 states and the District of Columbia participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

This year, we hope to have over a hundred pastors standing in their pulpits to speak biblical truth about candidates and elections.  If the IRS audits these churches, ADF will represent them free of charge and will argue that the tax code restriction that censors a pastor’s sermon is unconstitutional.  For more information about the Pulpit Initiative, visit our website.

Pastors must be free to speak biblical truth from the pulpit without fearing government censorship or control.  It’s time to get the government out of the pulpits out of America.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

In his weekly “Two-Minute Warning,”  Chuck Colson presents a compelling case for signing the Manhattan Declaration.  This document is an effort to unite all Christians in support of the three most important moral issues of our day – Life, Religious Freedom, and Marriage.

Disturbing, but not surprising, is the feedback Colson has received from pastors who refuse to sign the document because it would mean they lose half their congregation. This is not a radical document.  It simply says abortion is wrong, marriage is between a man and woman, and religious freedom is important. If conservative Christians of all denominations cannot unite behind such a simple, biblically based declaration, the Body of Christ is in trouble.

The good news is 500,000 people have signed it so far. The bad news is Barna Research Group estimates that there are between 15 to 20 million Americans who describe themselves as conservative Christians.  We need to get the word out about this opportunity to stand for biblical morality. 

In the video linked above, Colson does a good job explaining why it’s important to stand now, or risk losing the cultural battle for our nation’s moral conscience in the very near future. If you don’t believe him, believe the great Country Music singer/songwriter Aaron Tippin, who famously sung:  “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”

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ADF Senior Counsel - Church Project

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