To Protect Freedom, ADF Needs IRS to Punish Pastors
According to the IRS, churches most clearly cross the line with references to specific candidates or voting in a particular election. If a pastor makes it clear that he is speaking on his own, that his views are personal and do not reflect the official position of the church, then it is not illegal. Discerning the difference between an official endorsement and a pastor's own views would be difficult to prove in court. In practice, the IRS has not gone after pastors for their statements in services. According to the ADF's own documents, the IRS has never punished a pastor or a church for what was spoken from a pulpit in the five decades since the Johnson Amendment.
When pastors signed up for the event, they needed to affirm that they would speak out from the pulpit in a way that would violate the law. It was not enough to speak from the pulpit on candidates; the pastors had to have the authority to represent the church (i.e. speak for the 501(c)(3) organization). The pastors agreed "to preach a sermon that evaluates the candidates running for political office in light of biblical Truth and church doctrine and I am willing to make specific recommendations about those candidates in light of the biblical evaluation."
In the two previous Pulpit Freedom Sundays, the ADF turned in its own pastors to the IRS. Information on each of the pastors and their churches was taken to the government. The IRS, however, did nothing. According to the ADF, none of the churches or their pastors were penalized for their alleged illegalities.
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Lifeway Research recently released survey data on what Protestant pastors think about endorsing candidates from the pulpit (84% are against it) and the IRS regulation (86% are against it).
Managing Your Church, a Christianity Today sister publication, also covered Pulpit Freedom Sunday this week.
Previous coverage of Pulpit Freedom Sunday includes:
'Pulpit Freedom Sunday' Tally: 31+ Sermons, 6 Complaints With IRS (Politics blog, Sept. 30, 2008)
Who Is in Charge of Our Pulpits? | Pulpit Freedom Sunday was about bringing kingdom principles to bear on contemporary social problems, not seizing political power. (Ron Johnson Jr., Oct 16, 2008)
Tempted by Politics | Why many pastors want to, but shouldn't, endorse candidates. (Mark Galli, Oct. 2, 2008)
Endorsing from the Pulpit | Pastors launch challenge of IRS rules on endorsements. (Sept. 25, 2008)