If you’re paying attention during your church’s sermon on October 7, you might just hear a presidential endorsement instead of the scripture reading. More than 1,000 pastors backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom have agreed to deliberately challenge a 1954 tax code amendment that prevents tax-exempt organizations like churches from making political statements.
Members of the group are frustrated with the perceived infringement of the first amendment right to free speech by the federal government claiming that the pastors, not the IRS should decide what’s said from the pulpit. In order to take the challenge to court, the pastors will give their politically charged sermons on October 7 or “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” and record them, which they then plan on sending to the IRS. The IRS has threatened some pastors with revocation of their churches tax-exempt status in the past, but many of them say they are empty threats and are ready to take the matter head on.
Is there a moral conflict between a pastor’s sermon and political endorsement? Do they pastor’s have a right to free speech in any arena or should they exercise moral hazard with something as heavy as religion?
Jim Garlow, PhD, Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church, an evangelical Christian megachurch located in La Mesa, California
Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
Barry Lynn, executive director, Americans united for separation of church and state