The IRS, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of Speech

Marvia of Growing Your Church had this to say on the topic:

Pastors should not disengage from politics. Like every other citizen of a country, the pastor must also exercise her/his right to have a say in the governance of the country. However, I also believe that pastors be objectively critical when addressing political matters in the church.

I once served a circuit of 3 churches for 6 years, in 3 communities that had their different political leanings. None of them knew which party I supported. They tried every bait to get to me tell them where I stood. It was hard for them to tell, because I criticized or commended both sides. I knew that being in a position of authority my choice could influence some persons who believed I was on their side and at the same time anger others who would feel I was against them. But that did not stop me from including political statements in my sermons or discussions.  [Read More]

Here is the comment that I posted in response:

Hello Marvia!

Good thoughts. It is certainly important for pastors and Christian leaders to give careful thought to how they approach political issues.

I would like to submit to you and your readers another important consideration: the distinction between what pastors should or shouldn’t do vs. whether or not the government should be deciding what pastors should or shouldn’t do.

Here is what I mean.

We can debate amongst ourselves as Christians what role we want our spiritual leaders to play in informing us about politics. Some will prefer their leaders say little, some will prefer their leaders take a strong stand. You have articulated well in this article a very common belief that American Christians happen to have about this issue.

It is very different, however, for the National Government to prohibit or restrict the free speech of pastors. Whatever we believe pastors should be doing, I hope we can all agree that the IRS should not in any way be inhibiting religious expression of political speech!

The Congress has committed a serious moral error by including the prohibition on endorsing candidates (for churches) in the tax code. The restrictions on working to influencing legislation are inappropriate as well. I submit that both of these sections of the tax code need to be repealed.

The debate about “how much do we want to participate in politics” should be an internal debate inside the Church of Christ, not an external restriction placed by the federal (or state, or city) governments.

Something to think about!

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