Click here to read TheBlaze's Billy Hallowell's background report on the history of "Pulpit Freedom Sunday."
Today, more than 1,000 religious leaders all across the country are acting in defiance of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. In 1954 the tax code was amended to say that tax-exempt organizations-- like churches-- are prohibited from making political endorsements, but many are apparently done being silent.
The issue has people torn for several reasons. Even if they don't appreciate the IRS controlling religious speech, many are grateful for the break from politics that church provides. Some say, depending on their political views, that they're simply uninterested in hearing a politically-charged sermon on universal healthcare, or that they don't want their religious leaders telling them how to vote. Others say it's a violation of our religious liberties for pastors not to be able to speak on the pressing matters of the day.
The Religion News Service relates:
“Every pastor and every church has the right to decide what their pastor preaches from the pulpit and to not have that dictated to them by the IRS,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, formerly the Alliance Defense Fund.
Today’s parishioners, he said, are starving for religious leaders to act as “the moral compass of society.” [Pastor Jim Garlow] said he’s witnessed pastors who boldly speak on political issues receive standing ovations.
Garlow, a pastor at Skyline Church in California, is one of the religious figures spearheading the event. He explained for FoxNews.com: “If I would have said 50 years that ‘Tearing up a baby in the womb is a bad thing,’ people would have said ‘Of course it is'...But If I said that today, people would say ‘Pastor, you’re being too political.'”
Here is a promotional video for Pulpit Freedom Sunday:
Wayne Grudem-- who is also participating in the event-- compiled a list of 24 differences between the political parties with a strong moral component, ranging from individual liberties to executive power.
He explained in a Christian Post article that he likely won't make a habit of discussing politics, but feels it must be done today:
I fully understand that many pastors might never want to endorse a candidate from the pulpit (I have never done so before and I might never do so again). But that should be the decision of the pastors and their churches, just as it was in 1860 when many pastors (rightly) decided they had to tell citizens to vote for Abraham Lincoln in order to end the horrible evil of slavery. When the government censors what pastors can preach, I think it is an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
So what do the participating religious leaders hope to accomplish?
According to reports, they plan on recording their sermons and sending them to the IRS with the hope the IRS will actually take the matter to court. In the past, the IRS has apparently issued threats and notices, but typically stops short of legal action. Experts say this is because a judge is likely to rule the case unconstitutional, thereby lifting the burden on religious organizations.
Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, explained: “[The IRS prefers] to put out these vague statements and regulations and enforce it through a system of intimidation … Pastors are afraid to address anything political from the pulpit.”
But some of the movement's strongest detractors, like gay rights activist Rev. Susan Russell, claim it is all an excuse to "jam theocracy down throats." Others call this particular fight for religious freedom "bogus," saying it is really the religious liberties of Muslim-Americans that we should be worried about.
Comedian Stephen Colbert summarized the day as a way to endorse "Mitt Romney -- or not Obama."
What do you think?