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Supreme Court of the United States

A Call To Enlist Pastors In Defense Of Religious Freedom

October 17, 2017

The Johnson Amendment, helping Pastors self-censor sermons

It is, and has been for 60 years now, a most peculiar and extraordinary point of view: a government established on the principle of religious freedom contending that people who actually exercise religious freedom should not be allowed to discuss their government in a religious setting. Or else.

The notion is patently unconstitutional – and yet it’s been enforced as federal law and has galvanized considerable political activity by the supposedly apolitical Internal Revenue Service. Worse, it’s come to be accepted as gospel by pastors, church leaders, and Christian laity all over the country, who – subjected to this campaign of fear, intimidation, and disinformation – are being compelled to forfeit what could be their best opportunity for impacting an increasingly secular and politically hostile culture.

In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson ramrodded an amendment through Congress that reversed, overnight, every U.S. legal precedent regarding the government’s relationship with churches. The law he crafted – which passed with perhaps the most cursory examination of any legislation ‘til Obamacare – stated that non-profit tax-exempt entities could not “participate in, or intervene in any political campaign (including the publishing or distributing of statements) on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.”

In other words, the government arbitrarily decided that pastors could no longer hold the political positions and personal character of politicians up to biblical scrutiny. Your pastor is legally banned from referencing anything in a sermon about a given candidate’s position on, say, abortion, or same-sex unions in a way that implies support for or opposition to the candidate … unless he wants to risk investigation and prosecution from the IRS and the loss of your church’s tax-exempt status.

Bottom line: the content of your pastor’s sermons can now be decided not just by prayer and reflection, or even consultation with church leaders – but by government bureaucrats with their own agenda.

For the past few years, ADF has been working to alert Christians all over America to the fact that their government is ignoring the Constitution (which protects both your religious liberty and your freedom of speech, in and out of the pulpit) and encouraging pastors to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday – an event designed to call attention to what’s happening.

Over the last six years, more than 2,000 pastors have preached sermons that brought a biblical perspective to political candidates and issues … even though they knew the IRS wouldn’t like it. These pastors have even gone so far as to send copies of their sermons to the IRS, effectively challenging the agency to enforce the Johnson Amendment or admit it’s unconstitutional.  And they’ve done so with our promise that ADF attorneys will defend them, free of charge, should the IRS take action. So far, it hasn’t.

Find out more about Pulpit Freedom Sunday, sign up, or invite your pastor to sign up!