Pastors Want Government Out of Pulpit
Special Report - Septmenber 15, 2011
Nearly nine out of 10 Protestant pastors disagree with the government’s use of IRS regulations to censor political content from their sermons, according to a new survey conducted by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and Lifeway Research. The national telephone survey, which was conducted August 17-24, asked 1,000 “randomly selected senior pastors” if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “The government should regulate sermons by revoking a church’s tax exemption if its pastor approves of or criticizes candidates based on the church’s moral beliefs or theology.”
According to the findings, 86 percent of pastors in the survey said they either strongly disagreed (79 percent) or somewhat disagreed (seven percent) with the statement. Only 10 percent of pastors in the survey said they agreed with the statement (six percent somewhat agreed, and four percent strongly agreed).
“Pastors and churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley in a press release. “These results show that the desire to keep the gospel central does not mean that pastors want the IRS to regulate their sermons under the threat of revoking their church’s tax-exempt status.”
ADF and Lifeway released the survey of pastors in advance of this year’s “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” which is scheduled for October 2. The annual event was created by ADF in 2008 and is described as a day when “participating pastors preach sermons related to biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates or current government officials.” Last year, almost 100 pastors nationwide participated.
According to ADF, the event gives pastors the opportunity “to exercise their constitutionally protected right to free religious expression despite a problematic Internal Revenue Service rule that activist groups often use to silence churches.” The IRS rule, which is known as the Johnson Amendment, was enacted by Congress in 1954. It amended the federal tax code to state that entities with tax exempt status, such as churches, cannot, “Participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” According to ADF, the “IRS restriction on religious expression from the pulpit,” is unconstitutional, and the legal group eventually hopes to challenge it and get the courts to strike it down.
“No government-recognized status can be conditioned upon the surrender of a constitutionally protected right. That’s why ADF started Pulpit Freedom Sunday: to get the government out of the pulpits of America,” added Stanley. “This survey confirms what pastors of nearly every persuasion have told us for years: they don’t want the IRS, or any other governmental agency, to censor what they say from their pulpits.”
Groups Fight For Religious Freedom - August 31, 2010
Freedom Of Religion Statement Issued - January 20, 2010
Taking a Stand - Findings - 2006
Church Involvement - Findings - 2004
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