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A Page of History is Worth a Volume of Logic: The History of Politics from the Pulpit

October 17, 2017

Over at Dakota Voice, Bob Ellis has an interesting post that details the history of politics from the pulpit in America.  Bob does a good job of detailing many of the stories where pastors in American history spoke forcefully and with great conviction from their pulpits about political matters.  From the very beginning of our country, pastors spoke from their pulpits about matters of American life and politics that intersected with morality and religion.  After reviewing this extensive history, Bob concludes:

Seeing this issue in the light of the U.S. Constitution and history,  it is no wonder the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) launched it’s “Pulpit Initiative” two years ago to challenge the unconstitutional 1954 tax amendment and restore pastoral freedom to America’s churches.

I couldn't agree more.  If a page of history is worth a volume of logic, then the many pages of history that are filled with stories of pastoral intervention in political matters should be an open and shut case for the logic of jettisoning the Johnson Amendment.

In his excellent book, Why Churches Should Not Pay Taxes, Dean Kelley illustrates the active involvement of churches in American politics:

Throughout the history of the nation - and long before - churches have been active in helping to shape the public policy of the commonwealth in ways they believed God desired.  They were instrumental in setting the stage for the obtaining of independence at its beginning, when the "black regiment" - as James Otis called them - of the dissenting clergy thundered against the tyranny of King George from their pulpits.  A few decades later, the churches, acting corporately, brought an end to the practices of dueling by getting prohibitions against it written into the constitutions of twenty-one states, and no one conceived that this activity had any bearing on their tax exemption.  Churches were active in the effort to abolish slavery (though by the time of the Civil War there were religious apologists for slavery in the churches of the South).  Churches pressed for laws against gambling, Sabbath-breaking, alcoholic beverages, prostitution, and child labor.  They have worked for laws advancing labor organizing, women's suffrage, civil rights, and family welfare.

In none of these instances... was such public-spirited activity of the churches conceived to jeopardize their tax exemption.

History is replete with examples of churches and pastors speaking freely from their pulpits about the great social and moral issues of our day - including the selection of our national leaders.  That all stopped with the passage of the Johnson Amendment through clearly illegitimate means.  It is time to turn back the page of history to restore the constitutional rights of pastors and churches as active participants in our culture.

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