Pulpit Freedom Isn’t a Gimmick

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has posted an entry on their blog claiming that churches who participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday this year have not been “crowing about it publicly.” AU bemoans the fact that neither ADF nor the churches involved have made public the Pulpit Freedom sermons and that AU has been “unable to find evidence of any…pulpit endorsements.” AU then asks, “If these pastors are so eager to spread the word about their defiance of that mean old IRS, why aren’t they crowing about it openly? I have to wonder if the ADF isn’t just blowing a lot of smoke.”

Well, ADF isn’t “blowing smoke” and neither are the pastors of the churches that did indeed participate in this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday, which is an event associated with the ADF Pulpit Initiative. The initiative’s goal of having the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional would go nowhere if this was all just a joke, and despite the rather colorful rhetoric from Rob Boston, we are quite sure AU realizes that.

Just because AU can’t seem to dig up any evidence that a church violated what they think the IRS code says doesn’t mean that Pulpit Freedom Sunday was a gimmick.  No, ADF is dead serious about a pastor’s right to freely speak from his pulpit without fearing government censorship or control. The pastors in Pulpit Freedom Sunday know this, given the fact that the number of participants more than doubled this year. It’s more likely that AU is just upset that it isn’t able to utilize Pulpit Freedom Sunday for its own gain. AU has made a living out of tattling on pastors and churches through the years, and its constituency has come to expect that.

But, the hard truth is that AU is not the pulpit police, although they certainly would like to think they are. Whether they find a “violation” does not matter one iota to either ADF or, for that matter, to the IRS.

Also, we’re not sure where AU gets the idea that we are being “cagy” about Pulpit Freedom Sunday this year. AU writes, “The organization [ADF] is talking more about speaking ‘biblical truths’ from the pulpit and less about out-and-out candidate endorsements.” Strange, because we have spoken in the same terms both last year and this year about the constitutional right of pastors to speak biblical truths from the pulpit about the positions and moral qualifications of electoral candidates if they so choose—and to be able to do so without fearing government censorship or control.

The simple fact of the matter is that ADF doesn’t need AU for the Pulpit Initiative to succeed. It’s quite silly for AU to be goading pastors into letting them tattle to the IRS. That type of childish activity has gone on long enough.