Hundreds of Pastors Thumb Noses at IRS

World Net Daily

Just the name Internal Revenue Service can strike fear in the hearts of consumers, business owners and business operations volunteers for churches alike. But this weekend, pastors have the opportunity to thumb their noses at the federal agency – and have the weight of one of the largest Christian and human rights defense teams at their backs.
It's the weekend for the Alliance Defense Fund's annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday, on Oct. 2.
That's the Sunday each year when pastors are encouraged to "present biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates" to "exercise their constitutionally protected right to free religious expression."
The event takes place in the face of a "problematic Internal Revenue Service rule that activist groups often use to silence churches."Known as the "Johnson Amendment," it was put into place by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson from Texas in 1954 when he was facing public criticism from religious leaders over his behavior in Washington while he was campaigning for re-election.
His rule bans ministers from discussing electoral candidates from the pulpits, even though, logically, ministers' speech is protected by the Constitution.
The ADF has been promoting Pulpit Freedom Sunday for several years in hopes of bringing a direct confrontation with the IRS into court in which officials and attorneys expect the "rule" would be thrown out.
The program has pastors publicly discuss candidates' issues from a biblical perspective, record the message and deliver it to the IRS. The federal agency, however, has not yet risen to the bait. It also has declined to discuss the events with WND. ADF officials said pastors from more than 475 churches in 46 states have registered to participate this year. That's nearly five times as many as last year's approximately 100 participants. This is the fourth year for the event.
"Pastors and churches shouldn't live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. "Churches should be allowed to decide for themselves what they want to talk about. The IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church's tax-exempt status. 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," he said.
Freedom Sunday is associated with the ADF Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. It's goal is the elimination of the Johnson Amendment.
ADF said a national survey it conducted just weeks ago of 1,000 randomly selected senior pastors found that nearly nine out of 10 believe the government should not regulate their sermons.
"The survey confirmed 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," Stanley said.
"No one would suggest a pastor give up his church's tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment. Likewise, no one should be asking him to give up his church's tax-exempt status to be able to keep his constitutionally protected right to free speech," he said.
The ADF effort points out that before the amendment in 1954, "there were no restrictions on what churches could or couldn't do with regard to speech about government and voting, excepting only a 1934 law preventing nonprofits from using a substantial part of their resources to lobby for legislation." CONTINUE

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