Pulpit Freedom Sunday is all about fake outrage

The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based Christian legal group, is looking for a fight.

It is has talked Christian ministers from 22 states to use their pulpits Sunday to deliver political sermons or endorse presidential candidates. Its goal is to take a test case to the US Supreme Court to overturn the 54 year old ban on churches and other tax exempt groups from getting directly involved in politics or endorsing specific candidates.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday
Participating pastors will exercise First Amendment right to speak on positions of electoral candidates Sept. 28

Pastors participating in the Alliance Defense Fund’s “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will preach from their pulpits Sept. 28 about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking political office. The pastors will exercise their First Amendment right to preach on the subject, despite federal tax regulations that prohibit intervening or participating in a political campaign.

The Alliance Defense Fund

“It’s the job of the pastor to determine the content of his sermon, not the IRS,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “Pastors have a right to speak about biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment.”

IRS wary as some pastors plan to talk politics

Unless the Bible has changed and endorses certain candidates then Stanley is being silly. The ban on politics doesn’t infringe on sermons about biblical truth. A Pastor can still talk about hating abortion, hating gays, or whatever they feel is influenced by Satan. They just can’t say – vote for Joe Smoe, from the pulpit.

The ban on tax exempt organizations endorsing candidates was enacted into law in 1954. Churches and other groups had been tax exempt since 1913 but not until the red scare of the 1950’s was the ban on politicking was put into place.

Religious, charitable, educational and scientific organizations have been tax-exempt since 1913, although no political activity parameters were included in the first exemption statues. In 1954, however, Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson (D-TX) added the “express prohibition” on political campaign activity—without the benefit of hearings, testimony, or comment from affected organizations during Senate floor debate on the Internal Revenue Code. The amendment prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from “participat[ing] in, or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.” The law was eventually applied to churches and now includes all 501(c)(3) organizations.

The committee [Special Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations] found that there was a “rapidly increasing birth rate of foundations” and went on to observe that there was little implementation of their responsibility to the general welfare. The committee concluded that foundations administer their resources with such freedom that they bordered at times on irresponsibility. The committee further observed that the current laws did not compel compliance.

The committee’s found that foundations were becoming too powerful. Specifically, the committee noted that foundations could exercise “thought control” and through this could “materially influence public opinion.” It noted that where there were tax laws in place to curtail any political activity of foundations, the “present rule, as interpreted by the courts, permits far too much license.”

There has been very little legislation and few court decisions of this amendment. The provision has been described as the quid pro quo for exempt status. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has stated the following: “The trade-off for the benefit of this exemption is that no substantial part of the organization’s activities may include “carrying on . . . propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation . . . [nor may it] participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.” Thus the quid pro quo for § 501(c)(3) tax exemption *56 is a restraint on an organization’s right to try to influence the political process. This limitation has been held constitutional.

The History of Church Electioneering

This is one of those fake outrages the religious right is so use to expressing. If a church wants to say whatever it wants then give up the tax exemption. Simple as that.


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One Comment

  1. Vivian
    September 28, 2008

    “If a church wants to say whatever it wants then give up the tax exemption. Simple as that.”

    Agree with you 100%.

Comments are closed.