Pro-Life Pastors to Participate in Second Pulpit Freedom Sunday to Challenge IRS

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 24, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Pastors to Participate in Second Pulpit Freedom Sunday to Challenge IRS

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 24
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — A group of pro-life pastors will participate in another Sunday where they talk frankly about politicians and political candidates and issues like abortion. The second Pulpit Freedom Sunday on September 27 is meant to challenge what are considering onerous IRS restrictions on what pastors and priests can say.

The pastors will preach sermons related to Biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates or current government officials, exercising their constitutional right to free religious expression despite IRS rules against it.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life legal group, sponsors the event designed to secure the First Amendment rights of pastors in the pulpit.

Some of the pastors preaching Sunday will address the positions of candidates in current state governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia. Others will address the positions of existing government officials or people who have declared themselves for office in future elections.

“Pastors have a right to speak about biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley told

“ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit. On the contrary, the whole point is that churches should be allowed to decide for themselves what they want to talk about," he continued. "The IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status. We need the government to get out of the pulpit.”

Since the addition of the Johnson Amendment to the Federal Tax Code in 1954, the IRS has issued increasingly vague guidance on the law, which limits the First Amendment rights of pastors and priests.

Groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State have taken advantage of the vagueness of the tax law and have reported churches to the IRS in an attempt to remove their tax-exempt status.

The organization has also sent threatening letters to church warning them not to allow election literature from pro-life groups to be distributed on their property.

Stanley explained that, contrary to the misunderstandings of many church leaders, tax-exempt status is not a “gift” or “subsidy” bestowed by the government.

“Churches were completely free to preach about candidates from the day that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 until 1954," he explained.

“The real effect of the Johnson Amendment is that pastors are muzzled for fear of investigation by the IRS," he said. "Rather than risk confrontation, many pastors have self-censored their speech, afraid to be critical of blatant immorality in government and foregoing opportunities to praise moral government leaders. The participants in Pulpit Freedom Sunday refuse to be intimidated into sacrificing their First Amendment rights.”

ADF has agreed to provide legal support for pastors willing to risk speaking their mind from the pulpit.

The previous event was held last September when a group of pastors issued endorsements for John McCain on Sunday morning because of his pro-life and Barack Obama’s pro-abortion stance.

Pastor Luke Emrich of New Life Church in West Bend, Wisconsin told his congregation on Sunday that he supported McCain as did Rev. Ron Johnson Jr., the senior associate pastor at Living Stones Church in Crown Point, Indiana.

"If a candidate supports something that is evil and wicked from a biblical perspective," Johnson said, "then I have the right to call out the wickedness, and I have the right to say this is what this person stands for — this is wrong."

The Rev. Jody Hice of Bethlehem First Baptist Church outside of Atlanta also endorsed McCain and said he based his recommendations on McCain’s opposition to abortion compared to Obama’s strongly pro-abortion position.

“These are not political issues,” Hice said. “There are moral issues.”

Some 33 pastors and priests were involved in the initial effort.

Related web sites:
Alliance Defense Fund –

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