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 to silence pastors from speaking biblical values from the pulpit,” alleges the attorney. “e believe that pastors … shouldn’t be intimidated into giving those up.”