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Pulpit Freedom Sunday': Pastors Defy IRS by Talking Politics

Faith

"I can see November from my pew."

It may seem like a twist right from the start but the Alliance Defense Fund says 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday' is not about getting preachers to talk more about politics:

“ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit.  Churches can decide for themselves that they either do or don’t want their pastors to speak about electoral candidates.  The point of the Pulpit Initiative is very simple:  the IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status.  We need to get the government out of the pulpit.”

About 100 pastors plan to "bait" the IRS today by making political statements during their church services. Something expressly forbidden by the IRS.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley argues that tax-exempt status is not a government subsidy:

“Churches were completely free to preach about candidates from the day that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 until 1954.  That’s when the unconstitutional rule known as the ‘Johnson Amendment’ was enacted. Churches are exempt from taxation under the principle that there is no surer way to destroy religion than to begin taxing it.  As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, the power to tax involves the power to destroy.  The real effect of the Johnson Amendment is that pastors are muzzled for fear of investigation by the IRS.”

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'Pulpit Freedom Sunday' does have some significant detractors:

"It puts congregations in an awkward position. It's not a wise thing for churches to endorse candidates. We think candidates should endorse us," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Land said the church endorses many of the defense fund's initiatives, but "we think the mixing of the sacred nature of the church with the exceedingly worldly nature of politics is. .. unseemly."

USA Today talked to the ADF's "polar opposite":

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, issued a statement this week calling pulpit-based lawbreaking "the worst idea ever."

"Clergy serve as spiritual advisers, not political bosses. Pulpit politicking violates federal tax law and offends the vast majority of church-goers," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the group's executive director.

"The nation is already bitterly divided over politics this year.. .. Now, Religious Right political hacks want to haul that divisiveness into America's houses of worship.

"Clergy should just say no."

Last month Glenn Beck talked with David Barton of Wallbuilders about the message of the day:

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And Alan Sears of the ADF presented his case for Pulpit Freedom Sunday at the Values Voters Conference:

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The ADF plans to release a list of participating pastors later this week. In the American Thinker, Cindy Simpson writes: "I can see November from my pew. What I hear about November from the pulpit is another story."

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