Free Pastors from the IRS

Free Pastors from the IRS


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]

14 thoughts on “Free Pastors from the IRS

  1. If American Pastors want to be free of the IRS they won’t be voting for the Three Blind Mice this November. They will support sombody like Chuck Baldwin. Most Republicans only care about their pockets these days and have become to liberal. Go seek out a person who actually has a consience with Christian values and not somone who will sell his own soul so he can put us all in poverty.

  2. I don’t know Jon – in 2004 a lot of pastors in the south told their parishioners that if they didn’t vote for George Bush they’d burn in hell, and they didn’t lose their precious tax exempt status.

  3. Well I guess not – it didn’t get a lot of airplay on Fox news, and WorldNetDaily didn’t say a word about it.

    It was pretty widespread – here’s a little something about the most famous instance:

    “Members of the small East Waynesville Baptist Church say (Pastor) Chandler led an effort to kick out congregants who didn’t support President Bush. Nine members were voted out at a Monday church meeting in this mountain town, about 120 miles west of Charlotte. “

  4. Interesting articles Casper. I am certainly not interested in attending that church.

    The article didn’t mention anything about burning in hell.

    I see two questions:

    1) What kind of church do I want to be a part of and support?

    2) How much do I want the government deciding what is or is not appropriate for a church?

    If the USA Today article is accurate, I wouldn’t recommend anyone attend there, but whether or not a church endorses or requires support for a certain candidate (as crazy as that might be for them to do so) is not the business of the government.



  5. I think a better question is, why would you support a political party that endorses and uses these kinds of tactics? .

    Again – the R’s owned the government for a long time. Several years with an R prez, R-majority congress, and the Roberts/Alito supreme court. If they really wanted to end abortion (like they’ve been promising you guys for 30 years) they could have done it long ago. But then what would they herd you to the polls with next time? Gay marriage again?


    Ok, I’ll concur with you – whether a church endorses a candidate is not the business of government. However – whether an entity pays taxes or not IS the business of government. Churches have been tax exempt for a lot of reasons, and a big one was that they are “above the world”. They serve a higher purpose. If they wish to debase themeselves and become another mouthpiece for a political patty, then they can become taxpaying entities like all the other think tanks and Political Action Committees. The American Enterprise Institute and the Southern Baptists Convention will practically the same then. I don’t have a problem with it. Maybe it’ll help balance “fiscally conservative” GWB’s budget.

    Or maybe people who want to mix their politics and their religion could just start holding services at the Heritage Foundation headquarters. That’d be great wouldn’t it – hundreds of worshippers gathered ’round,,, praying to a $100 bill. πŸ™‚

  6. Casper, I hope you and the rest of America can see, before it is too late, that restricting free speech via the use of a tax system is deadly to freedom. The whole idea that the government gets to decide who is taxed based on their exercise of political speech is very scary and very inconsistent with the whole purpose of the first amendment.


  7. <font color="red">ThirstyJon's Response in Red:</font>

    "Before it's too late"? Explain please. As was mentioned in the article, no politics from the pulpit has been the law for 54 years.

    What's about to happen that can only be prevented if we allow the churches to preach politics? What horrific event will happen when it's "Too late"?

    <font color="red">(The first amendment was designed to protect liberty of conscience through freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Do you not see how regulating church speech via taxes threatens one of our most fundamental freedoms? Really? You don't see it?)</font>

    It's pretty clear that the right wing is very probably going to take another "thumpin' " <!– (to quote your pretzeldent)–> this November. Is this the tragedy that you hope to avert by having your pastor tell the little old ladies in your church that if they don't vote McCain then Obama will take away their bingo? (or some such rightist lies,,,). <font color="red">(What????)</font>

    That's pretty partisan ThirstyJon. I'm just saying…


    About using taxes to wield influence. Short of passing laws, this is the way governments influence behavior – encouraging some things and discouraging other things. Ever heard of "Sin taxes" on liquor and tobacco? It is judged to be for the "Common good" that people be discouraged from smoking, so taxes push a pack of cigarettes up to $5 a pack. "Conservatives" and Republicans are as guilty of it as anyone, and tirelessly meddle with the tax codes to manipulate behavior.

    <font color="red">(I don't support using taxes to influence behavior.)</font>

    If you don't support this, then I look forward to your upcoming column supporting repeal of all taxes on tobacco products, and alchoholic <font color="red">(sp)</font> beverages. <font color="red">(You can always start your own blog if there are things you want to write about! Of course, I get to decide what I want to write about. πŸ™‚ )</font>

  8. My first paragraph asked a question. You said “before it’s too late”. Why the sense of urgency? Too late for what? No answers?


    Here’s how I see it. There are of course limits to free speech – the famous example being “one is not free to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

    There is just about nobody in life who can tell you how to vote that you will give much creedence to. If your boss tells you to vote a certain way or your fired, you can say “Yes sir”, and then go in the booth and vote your conscience. If he later asks if you voted his way, you can say “Yep – sure did” and the secret ballot protects you. Same with anyone else in life – a spouse/parent/teacher, etc. etc.

    But a religious leader is another story. Many people dont’ really see a lot of difference between the priest and the church and the almighty. So,,, for some people, if the reverend tells/pleads/suggests that they vote a certain way, and infers that there may be some supernatural sanction (in this life or the next) for failing to support the cause, many people will believe it. They know that there are no secrets from G-d, and if the priest tells them to vote for candidate “A” and they don’t do it G-d will know. There is no “secret ballot” in this case, and the parishioner may not vote his/her conscience.

    I believe that this is the best reason to keep politics out of the pulpit. I’m not comfortable giving anyone this kind of power, not a Priest or a Pastor or a Rabbi or a Yogi or a Doctor or a Lawyer or an Indian chief.

    Are you?

    ThirstyJon’s Response: Casper, that is nice that you believe a certain category of people should not influence politics. That is why we have a first amendment, to protect us all from such thinking, especially if it should ever get a hold of government. The question is, will the first amendment stand?

  9. I completely support everyone’s first amendment right to free speech. If a minister wants to run for office, I support that. In fact, Ted Strickland, the new governor of Ohio is a minister – and I voted for him. Fine man, lot of common sense, has good ideas and gets stuff done about them.

    If a minister wants to make speeches, run a campaign, donate money to a candidate, talk to his friends, knock on doors, etc. etc. etc., then more power to him. I’d love to see more clergy involved in government, because they usually have a flock of people that they care for – and therefore are more inclined to understand (and care) how a given policy may impact regular folks.

    But the power of the pulpit doesn’t exactly belong to the clergyman. That power belongs to the faith and the organization, and I believe that using it to get some joker elected to office is a misuse and a sad debasement of that power. It is crass, it is ugly, and it is likely to backfire. Know how to get Casper to quit coming to your church? Tell Casper how to vote,,, that’ll do it. We call ourselves a “Flock”, but a lot of us are not literally sheep.

    The organization in your post is planning a nice piece of civil disobediance this September – let’s see what happens.

  10. Hello Casper,

    If a pastor told me to vote a certain way or be kicked out of the church, I wouldn’t remain there either.

    I wouldn’t want the IRS to start taxing that church though. If people want to attend a church where the pastor endorses candidates from the pulpit, that is their choice.

    The issue is this, should the government in any way be regulating, influencing, or trying to modify the church’s exercise of free speech!

    If the courts follow a “strict” construction of the constitution, I think the evidence will be overwhelming that the government has no business restricting political speech “from the pulpit.” Putting any restriction on political speech from the pulpit remains with the local church, it’s people, it’s leadership, denomination, etc. They are free to say “we don’t want a preacher endorsing candidates.”


  11. I respectfully disagree, for all of the very good reasons that I mentioned above. Let’s see what happens. I don’t think you’ll see any changes.

    Imagine this. Right now there are probably preachers in Florida who let their parishioners know that Mark Foley was a super guy, and they should vote for him, and g-d would like them to vote for him. And now the guy’s busted for cybersexing little boys and resigned in disgrace . That’s good for the ol’ credibility meter,,, Wouldn’t it be better if those preachers had kept their mouths shut?

  12. Casper, you can continue to list reasons why you believe pastor’s should or should not do something. Just understand, if you wish to restrict their free speech via taxes or any other method, your opinion is in direct opposition to the whole point of the first amendment – Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech. It is frightening that there are voters in the world such as yourself who do not see that clearly. How can freedom survive? I hope the American People wake up. I hope that you do.


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