Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke last week at the Catholic Community Conference and urged Catholic priests and bishops to talk up immigration reform from their pulpits.  Pelosi reportedy stated, “The cardinals, the archbishops, the bishops that come to me … say, ‘We want you to pass immigration reform,’ and I said, I want you to speak about it from the pulpit.”  Pelosi went on to say that, “Some (who) oppose immigration reform are sitting in those pews, and you have to tell them that this is a manifestation of our living the gospels.”

This statement is amazing as it is usually those on the left that are the first to raise the tiresome chant of “separation of church and state” when a pastor speaks from his pulpit on any issue touching politics.

I wonder whether Pelosi would have approved of statements like those of Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput who commented on the health-care reform bill and stated that the Senate health-care bill does not meet minimum moral standards and therefore, doesn’t have the support of the Catholic bishops.  Or would Pelosi have approved of and encouraged statements like the one made by Bishop Michael Sheridan that politicians like Pelosi who go against the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion should not present themselves for communion.  I wonder whether Pelosi would agree that pastors have the right to speak out against candidates for office who do not align themselves with Scriptural Truth.

To be fair, I don’t know what Pelosi believes about a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit (I don’t think she is on record one way or the other on this issue) and, to be sure, her comments to the Catholic Community Conference suggest a willingness to include pastors and priests in the public debate on the important moral issues facing our country.  But, to borrow a phrase from our current President, “let’s be clear” about how far that goes.  For too long, pastors and priests have been told they cannot speak out on moral issues that touch on politics.  Indeed, the IRS has even gone so far as to say that a pastor can endanger their church’s tax exempt status by using “code words” during an election season.  (If you doubt whether that is true, look at page 345 of the IRS’ internal training materials on tax exemption restrictions on churches).

The point is that the government has been sending mixed messages for too long to our nation’s pastors.  On the one hand, politicians encourage pastors to speak from their pulpits when it is convenient, but on the other, the IRS comes knocking on the church’s door when a pastor speaks in a way that is not favored by those in power or crosses the IRS’ imaginary line between what is permitted and what is prohibited.

These mixed messages have gone on long enough.  It is time to bring clarity back to the law and get the government out of the business of censoring what a pastor can say from the pulpit.  That’s what ADF’s Pulpit Initiative is intended to do.  Pastors should be free to preach from their pulpit without fearing any government censorship or control.  And when a politician like Pelosi urges them to speak out on an issue, they should feel free to do so – even if that means opposing Pelosi or any other politician if the pastor believes that the politician or candidate for office does not align themselves with Scriptural Truth.

If you are a pastor, sign up for the Pulpit Initiative and get involved to protect the right of pastors to speak freely from their pulpits without any restriction.

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