Participants in annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday increase for third year

Approximately 100 pastors from nearly 30 states embrace constitutional freedom over IRS censorship
Monday, September 27, 2010

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Pastors from approximately 100 churches nationwide participated in the Alliance Defense Fund’s third annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday on Sept. 26. The pastors preached sermons related to biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates or current government officials, exercising their constitutional right to free religious expression despite a problematic Internal Revenue Service rule that activist groups often use to silence churches.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an event associated with the ADF Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the First Amendment rights of pastors in the pulpit. The Pulpit Initiative is part of the larger ADF Church Project.

“Pastors and churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government—in this case, the IRS,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit; we want to get government out of the pulpit. 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. We appreciate each participating pastor and every church that shares our hope that this effort will eventually result in striking down the IRS’s unconstitutional gag rule.”

Pastors spoke freely from the pulpit, even about specific candidates and elections, without worrying about tax exemptions until 1954 when Congress passed a tax code amendment proposed by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson that prohibits any speech favoring or opposing a political candidate. Since the addition of the Johnson Amendment to the Federal Tax Code, the IRS has issued increasingly vague guidance on the law but has continued to launch investigations while avoiding court review of the constitutionality of its actions.

Groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State have taken advantage of the vagueness of the tax law and have reported churches to the IRS in an attempt to remove their tax-exempt status.

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.