Pastors today may not remember a time when they could preach on political and social issues without fear of their church losing its tax-exempt, non-profit status.
But the current fear among pastors of preaching about candidates or an election was not always so pervasive.
Since the founding of our country, pastors enjoyed the freedom to speak boldly from their pulpit about the most crucial social and political issues of the day. In 1954, however, the carefully manipulated passage of one outrageous piece of legislation – the Johnson Amendment – profoundly undermined this crucial freedom.
Nearly 60 years later, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) convened a Commission to study, among other things, whether the Johnson Amendment should be amended or repealed.
The Commission was advised by panels of representatives from the non-profit sector, legal experts, and religious leaders.
After studying the issue, the Commission recommended amending the Johnson Amendment to restore the constitutional rights of free speech and free exercise of religion to churches and other non-profit organizations.
The Commission recommended amending the Johnson Amendment to allow:
1. Speech that would be no added cost or a very minimal cost to the organization (such as a sermon, not an expensive advertising campaign)
2. If the speech of the organization would cost more than that minimal amount, then the Johnson Amendment would only prohibit speech that clearly identifies candidates and directly calls for those candidates’ election or defeat.
This fix, if adopted, will relieve a great deal of pressure on churches and other non-profit organizations. It will get the IRS out of the business of censoring what a pastor says from the pulpit and will go a long way to bringing clarity to the IRS' enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.
ECFA’s proposal overrides the negative effects of the Johnson Amendment without even having to repeal it. It is a practical, realistic way to restore a fundamental right to churches and other non-profits that everyone, including Congress, can get behind.
Shouldn’t pastors have the freedom to fearlessly speak Biblical truth on the political and social issues of the day?
That is exactly what this ECFA amendment seeks to do – restore the right of a pastor to decide what is said from the pulpit, not the IRS.
Today, there is a movement of pastors in the United States standing up for their free speech and free exercise of religion by signing up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday. This movement seeks to encourage Congress to consider and pass this reasonable amendment.
You can join them.
Go to www.pulpitfreedom.org to sign up. Then share this post on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.
The guide for pastors and church leaders provides helpful, timely, general guidance on politics, elections, and the issues of the day.