Under the proposed new rules, organizations that fall under the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) umbrella would also be more clearly identified during campaigns. The new guidance would curtail activities such as running ads, distributing campaign literature and other get-out-the-vote initiatives.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is representing 41 organizations in a federal lawsuit challenging the IRS, says the proposed regulation change puts free speech rights of Americans at risk.
“This is a feeble attempt by the Obama Administration to justify its own wrong-doing with the IRS targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups,” attorney Jay Sekulow said in a written statement. “Instead of holding those responsible for the unlawful targeting scheme accountable for their actions, the Obama Administration is determined to further limit the free speech of Americans by attempting to change constitutional practices that are decades old.”
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:
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.
For almost the first 180 years of American history, pastors routinely addressed political issues and candidates from the pulpit. “Until about 1954, churches were free to endorse or oppose particular candidates from the pulpit — and, in fact, churches did that,” says Erik Stanley with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). “Some pastors opposed Thomas Jefferson as being a deist. Other pastors opposed William Howard Taft as a Unitarian. Some pastors opposed Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election — and the list goes on and on.”
But that changed in 1954, says Stanley, when Congress passed a law forbidding churches from endorsing or opposing candidates. The so-called “Johnson Amendment” was passed without any debate or analysis. Stanley says that provision has since been used to keep churches from speaking out when politics intrudes into moral issues addressed by scripture.
“The IRS has been used as a willing accomplice with groups like Americans United [for Separation of Church and State] to silence pastors from speaking biblical values from the pulpit,” alleges the attorney. “[W]e believe that pastors … shouldn’t be intimidated into giving those up.”
That is why ADF is asking pastors to help reclaim that constitutionally protected right. [Read More]