ADF prepared to defend churches against possible IRS free speech investigations

Monday, September 29, 2008

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund say they are prepared to defend the First Amendment rights of pastors who engaged in free speech from the pulpit on Pulpit Freedom Sunday Sept. 28.

“Pastors have a right to speak about Biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment.  No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.

“Yesterday, 31 pastors participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, with two more scheduled to participate in the near future.  Today, ADF will begin monitoring any IRS investigations that result from the participating pastors’ sermons,” Stanley explained.  “ADF will oppose any attempt by the IRS to use the Johnson Amendment to remove a church’s tax-exempt status because a pastor exercised his constitutional right to engage in religious speech from the pulpit.  The goal is to have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional.”

Pastors participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday preached from their pulpits Sept. 28 about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking political office.  The pastors exercised their First Amendment right to preach on the subject, despite federal tax regulations that prohibit intervening or participating in a political campaign.

The event is part of the ADF Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the First Amendment rights of pastors in the pulpit.  A document explaining what the Pulpit Initiative is and is not is available here.

“If you have a concern about pastors speaking about electoral candidates from the pulpit, ask yourself this:  should the church decide that question, or should the IRS?” said Stanley.  “IRS rules don’t trump the Constitution—and the First Amendment certainly trumps the Johnson Amendment.  Churches were tax exempt long before the IRS even existed.”

A list of pastors who participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday is available here.

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.

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