ADF to Represent South Dakota Church Reported to IRS

Pastor H. Wayne Williams

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys have agreed to represent a South Dakota church reported to the Internal Revenue Service by Americans United for Separation of Church and State because the church’s pastor engaged in free speech from the pulpit.

“Pastors and churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government, yet that’s precisely what Americans United wants,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “Under the First Amendment, a pastor, not the IRS, determines what his sermon will say. Groups like Americans United intentionally trigger IRS investigations that will silence churches through fear, intimidation, and disinformation. It’s a contradiction for groups that say they believe in ‘separation of church and state’ to say it’s the role of the IRS to decide what pastors can talk about in church without being investigated.”

AU reported Liberty Baptist Tabernacle to the IRS in an attempt to threaten the church’s tax-exempt status after its pastor, H. Wayne Williams, voiced his preference for a particular candidate for governor in a Sunday evening sermon. Pastors spoke freely from the pulpit without worrying about tax exemptions until 1954 when Congress passed a tax code amendment proposed by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson that prohibits any speech about a political candidate. The ADF Pulpit Initiative, a part of the larger Church Project, is a legal effort designed to restore the right of pastors to speak freely from the pulpit on any and all issues addressed by Scripture.

“IRS rules don’t trump the Constitution, and the First Amendment certainly trumps the Johnson Amendment,” Stanley explained. “No tax exemption can ever be contingent upon someone giving up a constitutional right. We will continue to monitor this situation and take appropriate steps to defend the church, if necessary.”

As part of the Pulpit Initiative, pastors across the country will participate in the third annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday on Sept. 26.  Pastors participating in the event will exercise their First Amendment rights by preaching biblically-based sermons at their own churches about the positions of electoral candidates and current government officials.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

13 Responses to “ADF to Represent South Dakota Church Reported to IRS”

  1. I applaud Pastor Williams and ADF for their courageous challenge of this unGodly, unConstitutional law that LBJ so hatefully passed.

    It's hard for me to imagine how this ever passed muster in the Senate and Congress let alone get signed by the President and survive this long without succesful challenge on 1st Amendment grounds.

    I'm excited to see this movement succeed.

  2. Good question, Jim. I think the answer has something to do with a lack of vigilance on the part of “we the people” and a foolish acquiescence on the part of Christians to that lie which says religion has nothing to do with the “real world.”

    Thank God, growing numbers are waking up to that monumental error–hopefully not too late.

  3. Praise God for the courage of this man to stand up to tyranny and proclaim from the pulpit what the founders intended. May his lead be followed by many others.

    Of course, many Churches ruled by committee may not give their pastors the autonomy to make such a bold move. But if only a few will, the movement it may set in motion may be the beginning of a conservative wave in this country. I'll remain hopeful that the appeals make it to the USSC where the law will be struck down.

  4. Does anyone else remember the ad in the RC Journal that had a list of clergy for Daschle ?
    The archives at the online journal dont o back to 2004 but I clearly remember seeing it. I also do not remember any squabbles about it either like thereis this time, gonna go to the library and find it

  5. I vaguely remember that ( I KNOW I remember the “Pastors for Immoral Choices” ads in support of killing unborn children).

    If you find that and can get a scan of it, I'd like a copy if you don't mind.

  6. You got it Bob, it was in Oct/Nov of 2004 maybe Sept but I believe it was right befoe the election, I think I can print it at the library, if so I'll just give it to you.

  7. So it was that same “Pastors for Immoral Choices” bunch that endorsed Daschle?

    Yes, if you can find a copy of that, I'd REALLY like a copy. Thanks!


    Political organizations CAN be religious in nature… there would be no cause to “squabble” over the Religious Coalition endorsing a candidate because 1) it is NOT a church, and 2) it does NOT use tax-deductible donations to support its political activities.

    Churches, on the other hand, can not use tax-exempt facilities and tax-deductible funding (tithings) to support a political agenda or to endorse a candidate… these are NOT tax-exempt religious/humanitarian purposes.

  9. It sounds like you're using some circular reasoning here. Churches can't promote or condemn a candidate who promotes or condemns a moral agenda they agree with because…the IRS says so.

    The U.S. Constitution, on the other hand, guarantees freedom of speech and religious expression. If you pay a penalty for your exercise of free speech or religious expression, it isn't free anymore.

    Since colonial days, our society and the government that serves it has recognized that churches provide an invaluable service to society, and has exempted churches from paying taxes for that reason as well as the recognition that the power to tax is the power to control. In addition to the control over churches that taxation (or the threat of it) provides in contradiction to the First Amendment, American society has acknowledged that churches help promote a healthy and safe culture by promoting moral values (don't kill, don't steal, don't assault, respect other people's property and person, be honest, etc.) and other things like helping the poor (with charity toward their immediate material needs, as well as morally equipping them to get out of and stay out of poverty in the future).

    Senator Lyndon Johnson created this tax code provision in 1954 for the self-serving goal of silencing his political enemies. It's time we ditched this unconstitutional piece of opportunistic legislation and returned to the constitutional standard, the American standard.

  10. “Churches can't promote or condemn a candidate who promotes or condemns a moral agenda they agree with because…the IRS says so.” – Bob

    Churches can do whatever they want, Bob… they just can't claim that whatever they want to do is tax-exempt.

  11. I could repeat the same truth over again–because it doesn't change–but suffice to say that your hostility to Christianity and our Christian heritage in America is not justification to ignore our Constitution and our rich heritage of freedom.