Pulpit Freedom for Nearly 500 American Pastors

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Pastors from more than 475 churches nationwide have registered to participate in the Alliance Defense Fund’s fourth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday on Oct. 2. The total reflects nearly five times as many participants as last year’s total of approximately 100 pastors.

The pastors have committed to preach sermons that present biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates. In so doing, they will exercise their constitutionally protected right to free religious expression despite a problematic Internal Revenue Service rule that activist groups often use to silence churches.

“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.”

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an event associated with the ADF Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. ADF hopes to eventually go to court to have the IRS rule known as the Johnson Amendment struck down as unconstitutional for its regulation of sermons, which are protected by the First Amendment.

national phone survey conducted by ADF and LifeWay Research last month with 1,000 randomly drawn senior pastors found that nearly nine out of 10 Protestant pastors believe that 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.”

The complete list of participants in Pulpit Freedom Sunday will be released on Monday, Oct. 3.

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.

16 Responses to “Pulpit Freedom for Nearly 500 American Pastors”

  1. Per the Constitution of the United
    States of America:

    Article Six: The Senators and
    Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State
    Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United
    States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to
    support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a
    Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

  2. I wasn’t aware that any law had been passed requiring a religious test to determine qualification for government service.

    If one exists, or if one has been proposed, could you cite the reference?

  3. My only fear is that this will turn into a circus.  Pastors shouldn’t alter supposedly God-given messages just to make a statement.  On the other hand, they should never have been saddled with the speech codes imposed by the government to begin with, and should have been ignoring this unconstitutional law all along, if the pastor is worth his salt. 

    I’ve heard internet buzz that infiltrators will be spying on these “registered” (that’s the term I don’t like) Churches to report them promptly to authorities should the pastor violate the law and mention a candidate in his sermon.  That’s fine, and I welcome confrontations and ensuing lawsuits, which would undoubtedly result in the law’s overturn (“Democrat-majority” churches do it all the time anyway.)  I’d much rather pastors just be encouraged to follow their consciences and promptings of God and ignore the pernicious laws of men.

  4. Exactly. The more infiltrators who report pastors exercising their constitutional rights, the better. I know one of these patriot pastors personally, and they’ve been sending copies (i.e. transcripts, audio CDs, video, etc) to the IRS to report themselves.

    So far the IRS has been too chicken to pursue them…because they know they’ll lose in the courts. But if they allow the illusion to stand as long as it can, that at least keeps a lot of pastors self-muzzled, and they like that.

  5. Could it be that the IRS is just keeping their powder dry to use on a “real,” significant enemy?  Don’t know, but I know that a law that is unenforceable because it is unconstitutional doesn’t have much substance.

  6. The government doesn’t regulate their speech.  It just ties their speech to Tax Exemption status.  Feel free to give that up if you want to say what ever you please.  Don’t assume you can have it both ways.

  7. If you are penalized for doing something you would otherwise be free to do without penalty (as pastors and churches were in this country until 1943), then you aren’t free, are you?

    Maybe you need to think about it for a while.

  8.   Pastors are instructed by Gods word to obey man made laws unless they come in conflict with the word of God,then you ignore man made laws and obey God.

  9. Do you really think those who would silence certain speech would settle for only penalizing it by taking away Tax Exemption status?

  10. I think that’s what these pastors are doing, when appropriate.

  11. Just the threat of taking away their tax exempt status seems to be plenty to accomplish the goal of silencing most pastors and churches. And a silent pastor/church is a pretty ineffective one.

  12. My sermon on Pulpit Freedom Sunday
    Blessings! — http://www.firstprestucker.org/sermon-archive/sermon-archive-2/2011-10-02/

  13. Fantastic sermon, Pastor! Said in the best tradition of the “Presbyterian Revolution.”

    Thank you for your courage and your stand for Christ in the public square, Pastor!