All present for pulpit freedom: pastors in 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico will fight IRS

More than 1,200 pastors to dispute unconstitutional tax rule as part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday
Monday, October 01, 2012

Attorney sound bites: Erik Stanley #1 | Erik Stanley #2

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — More than 1,200 pastors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have registered to participate in Alliance Defending Freedom’s fifth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday. This is the first year that all 50 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico will be represented. Registration, which continues until Oct. 7, so far has reached a record participation of more than double last year’s.

The registered 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 freedom to engage in religious expression from the pulpit despite an Internal Revenue Service rule known as the Johnson Amendment that activist groups often use to silence churches by threatening their tax-exempt status.

“Pastors should decide what they preach from the pulpit, not the IRS,” said Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “It’s outrageous for pastors and churches to be threatened or punished by the government for applying biblical teachings to all areas of life, including candidates and elections. The question is, ‘Who should decide the content of sermons: pastors or the IRS?’”

“No government-recognized status can be conditioned upon the surrender of a constitutionally protected right,” Stanley explained. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment. Likewise, no one should be asking him to give up his church’s tax-exempt status to be able to keep his constitutionally protected right to free speech.”

Pulpit Freedom Sunday, on Oct. 7 this year, is an event associated with the Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. Alliance Defending Freedom 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.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday began in 2008 with 33 participating pastors. Participation increased each year, with last year’s participation blossoming to 539.

A national phone survey conducted by Alliance Defending Freedom and LifeWay Research with 1,000 randomly drawn senior pastors prior to last year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday found that nearly nine out of 10 Protestant pastors believe that the government should not regulate their sermons.
Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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