Pulpit Initiative | Pulpit Freedom Sunday

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Description:  Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an event associated with the Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. Pulpit Freedom Sunday encourages pastors to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to speak truth into every area of life from the pulpit. Alliance Defending Freedom also hopes to eventually go to court to have the Johnson Amendment struck down as unconstitutional for its regulation of sermons, which are protected by the First Amendment.

ADF to Congress: 91% of pastors want to speak freely without govt punishment

New poll shows vast majority of Protestant pastors want end to Johnson Amendment, IRS penalties
Monday, October 16, 2017

WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to congressional leaders Monday on behalf of more than 4,000 religious leaders to inform Congress of the results of a new scientific poll showing that 91 percent of pastors want the freedom to speak freely from the pulpit without the threat of government penalties.

The LifeWay Research poll of 1,000 Protestant pastors, conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 18, shows that 91 percent agree that “pastors should have the right to speak freely from the pulpit without the fear of being penalized by the government.” In addition, 73 percent agree that “Congress should remove the IRS’s power to penalize a church because of the content of its pastor’s sermons.” The poll has a margin of error of approximately 3.2 percent.

“America’s pastors don’t need a federal tax agency to police their sermons,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Churches and their pastors have a constitutionally protected freedom to decide for themselves what they want to say or not say. This poll demonstrates that religious leaders don’t want to be burdened by the continual threat of an IRS investigation and potential penalties based simply on what they say from the pulpit.”

“As our letter to Congress explains, the Free Speech Fairness Act would bring the law into conformity with the First Amendment and restore free speech to our nation’s churches,” Holcomb added. “It will fix the Johnson Amendment, a restriction enacted in 1954 that was never intended to affect churches but has been used to intimidate them ever since.”

The Free Speech Fairness Act allows statements to be made in the ordinary course of a 501(c)(3) organization’s regular and customary activities, so long as the organization does not incur more than minimal incremental costs. Thus, the legislation respects free speech without allowing tax-exempt organizations to purchase political ads for or against a candidate for public office.

“For over sixty years, Section 501c(3) of the Tax Code (the ‘Johnson Amendment’) has forced churches to surrender First Amendment freedoms in exchange for a tax status and empowered federal bureaucrats to dictate what pastors may not say from their pulpits…,” the ADF letter states. “It’s time for Congress to restore a pastor’s right to free speech. The Free Speech Fairness Act does just that. This bill stops the IRS from being speech police, and allows pastors to speak—or not speak—as their conscience requires. America’s pastors have asked for this legislative fix, and you have the opportunity to restore their First Amendment freedoms by including this bill in tax reform.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Additional resources: Pulpit Initiative | Pulpit Freedom Sunday

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Previous news releases:

  • 2017-06-22: ADF joins letter to congressional leaders encouraging prioritization of Free Speech Fairness Act
  • 2017-05-03: ADF attorney to testify on free speech of churches Thursday
  • 2017-01-31: News conference Wednesday on Free Speech Fairness Act
  • 2016-09-28: ADF: Free Speech Fairness Act is legally sound, needed
  • 2016-09-27: News conference Wednesday on new Free Speech Fairness Act
  • 2015-01-28: ADF joins panel discussion on vague tax laws muzzling nonprofits, churches
  • 2014-10-10: Pulpit Freedom participation exceeds 1,800 pastors, continues through Election Day
  • 2014-10-02: Pulpit Freedom Sunday vs. IRS
  • 2013-06-07: Pastors to again stand for pulpit freedom this weekend
  • 2012-10-05: Record 1,500 pastors to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday this weekend
  • 2012-10-01: All present for pulpit freedom: pastors in 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico will fight IRS
  • 2012-09-26: Grand total: More than 1,000 pastors to challenge IRS
  • 2011-09-30: Participation in ADF Pulpit Freedom Sunday more than quadruples over last year
  • 2011-09-12: 86 percent of pastors say gov’t shouldn’t regulate sermons under threat of revoking tax exemption
  • 2010-09-27: Participants in annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday increase for third year
  • 2010-09-23: Pastors ready for third-annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday on Sept. 26
  • 2010-06-22: ADF agrees to represent SD church reported to IRS
  • 2010-02-17: ADF attorney to debate at Stanford Law School on IRS religious speech restrictions
  • 2009-10-05: Maine churches threatened with IRS complaints for supporting marriage
  • 2009-09-24: Pastors ready for second annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday on Sept. 27
  • 2009-07-28: IRS withdraws audit on Minn. pastor’s sermons
  • 2008-09-29: ADF prepared to defend churches against possible IRS free speech investigations
  • 2008-09-25: Pulpit Freedom Sunday
  • 2008-05-09: ADF announces new initiative to reclaim pastors’ First Amendment rights

  • Erik Stanley: How to fix the Johnson Amendment (Wall Street Journal, 2017-02-09)
  • Erik Stanley: Pulpit freedom hasn’t existed in America since 1954 (CNS News, 2016-08-17)
  • Jeffery Ventrella: Politics and the pulpit: Profane, provocative, or prudent? (Part 1) (Canon and Culture, 2014-11-03)
  • Erik Stanley: IRS to churches: To exercise free speech, give up your tax-exempt status (CNS News, 2014-10-15)
  • Erik Stanley: IRS apologizes, more apologies necessary (Townhall, 2013-05-30)
  • Erik Stanley: Government can’t require churches to abandon constitutional freedoms (Townhall, 2012-10-08)
  • Alan Sears: Why pastors must be free to preach on politics (Townhall, 2011-10-05)
  • Erik Stanley: IRS has no business telling pastors how to choose their words (Washington Times, 2011-10-02)
  • Erik Stanley: What is Pulpit Freedom Sunday all about? (Townhall, 2011-09-14)

Legal documents, related news, and other related resources available in the right panel when this page is viewed at ADFmedia.org.