As part of a national crusade to fight a 58-year-old IRS regulation banning clergy from talking about political issues from the pulpit, a record-breaking 1,600 pastors participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday Oct. 7.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) started the annual event in 2008 to give pastors an opportunity to use their pulpits to speak about political issues from a biblical perspective. It has been illegal to do so since 1954, when Congress passed the Johnson Amendment, which revised the federal tax code to state churches may lose their tax-exempt status if they promote or oppose political candidates or issues in church.
Family News in Focus reporter Roger Greer, who also serves as interim pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in La Veta, Colo., told CitizenLink that participating in the event Sunday gave him a sense of freedom. He told his congregation the IRS “is wrong to do what they’re doing,” and “this sorry piece of legislation should have been done away with years ago.”
“It was extremely liberating to obey God and deliver His message to His people and not worry about the U.S. government condemning me for it,” Greer told CitizenLink, “because history shows they’re not going to take us to court over violating the Johnson Amendment.”
The number of participants was nearly triple the 539 pastors participating last year.
“They preached sermons that talked about the candidates who are running for office in light of Scripture, what Scripture says about the candidates’ positions, and then they made specific recommendations as to each one of the candidates,” ADF Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said.
The IRS has never taken action against any pastors or churches involved in Pulpit Freedom Sunday — but ADF will continue holding the event until it does, Stanley said.
“The goal here is of course to generate a test case and to have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional,” he explained. “It is the pastor’s job to determine what is said from the pulpit and not the IRS’s.”
Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego, told CNN he participated in the event to reclaim the rights of free speech and religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“American pastors enjoyed (these rights) for 166 years,” he said, “until the Johnson Amendment (passed) with only a voice vote.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Watch Jim Garlow’s recent appearance on “The Colbert Report,” in which he discusses Pulpit Freedom Sunday.
See the list of churches that participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday Oct. 7.
Read ADF’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday Summary of Legal Arguments.