Pastors Defy IRS Code to Preach About Candidates

by | Sep 30, 2008 | Charisma Archive

In a strategic campaign held Sunday, a conservative legal group
encouraged pastors nationwide to preach their convictions regarding candidates
running for office.
 
Pastors Defy IRS Code to Preach About
Candidates
[09.30.08] In an unprecedented move Sunday, pastors from across the nation
gave their personal political views from their pulpits, openly defying tax rules
for nonprofit organizations.
 
Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an initiative of the conservative, Arizona-based
legal group Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), garnered widespread support from
pastors nationwide who want to challenge a U.S. tax code, written in 1954, that
bars them from preaching about politics.
 
“Pastors have a right to speak about biblical truths from the pulpit
without fear of punishment,” said senior legal counsel Erik Stanley for ADF,
which promised to represent for free any pastor challenged by the Internal
Revenue Service (IRS). “No one should be able to use the government to
intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights.”
 
On Monday, a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C.,
filed complaints with the IRS against six of the 31 churches that participated.
“This is one of the most appalling Religious Right gambits I’ve ever seen,” said
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church
and State. “These pastors flagrantly violated the law and now must deal with the
consequences.”
 
Americans United called Pulpit Freedom Sunday “a mass defiance of federal
tax law.” “Church leaders are supposed to tend to Americans’ spiritual needs,
not behave like partisan political hacks,” Lynn said. “I urge the IRS to act
swiftly in these cases.”
 
Stanley countered that preaching about the moral qualifications of
candidates running for office is a First Amendment right of pastors, despite the
federal tax regulations that prohibit them from intervening or participating in
a political campaign.
 
“What’s important is the ability of the pastor to be the leader of the
church,” Stanley told Charisma Tuesday. “Pastors [should] be able to
stand in the pulpit, speak scriptural truth as they see it, and not have the
government come in, look over their shoulders and say, ‘You can’t say
that.’
 
“In essence,” he added, “what we’re really trying to do here is enforce a
very healthy separation between church and state, keeping the government out of
the pulpits of America when a pastor stands to speak scriptural truth.”
 
Before the pulpit initiative launched, hundreds of churches expressed an
interest in participating. Stanley said for reasons of legal strategy the list
was narrowed down to 33 churches. He said two of those congregations plan to
participate in the coming weeks.
 
The ADF also ensured that each pastor had the full support of their church
boards and that they all understood the risks and benefits of the project.
 
Stanley said pastors were bold about their participation, immediately
reporting themselves to the IRS by mailing transcripts of their sermons and
inviting investigations.
 
“If the [IRS] comes after them, we’ll file suit,” Stanley said. “If the IRS
does nothing, then I think that speaks volumes in and of itself—that what these
pastors did was not a violation. We’re very much respectfully working within our
system of laws, which allows for … civil rights challenges.”
 
Lynn, however, believes pastors should play no role in challenging federal
laws. “A pastor who knowingly violates federal tax law is setting a poor example
for his or her congregation,” he said. “Every pastor who took part in this stunt
ought to be ashamed.”
 
The six churches reported to the IRS by Americans United were: Bethlehem
First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, Ga.; Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond,
Okla.; Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minn.; Calvary Chapel on the Kings
Highway in Philadelphia; First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif.;
and New Life Church in West Bend, Wis.
 
Lynn argued that when five of the six churches endorsed Republican
presidential candidate John McCain, “it’s hard not to see the ADF scheme as
partisan in character.”
 
Yet the ADF team of lawyers holds that pastors have been muzzled in their
pulpits for too long and have every right to express their moral views regarding
elections and candidates. “We expected this to end in litigation,” Stanley said.
“This is a very serious, very sober-minded challenge to an unconstitutional law.
This is not a publicity stunt. This is not a political ploy.
 
“It’s not about any particular candidate. It’s not about any particular
party. It’s not a conservative or a liberal issue. The issue is not whether a
pastor or a church must endorse or oppose a candidate. The issue is, ‘Who gets
to regulate that?’ It’s not the government that should regulate that.” —Paul
Steven Ghiringhelli

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

All of us at some point will hit a place of getting the wind knocked out of us. We all experience unexpected detours and times when there seems to be no way out. But there is One who lives in us, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us the strength to overcome obstacles....

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Whether it is the Spirit leading or forbidding in the book of Acts, or the Spirit leading throughout Christian history, it’s clear that the leading of the Spirit is important. In the Old Testament, it appears that the Spirit of God could be withdrawn completely from...

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Everyone has a race to run. That just means we all have a life to live. The apostle Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “Therefore...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for...

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

God says that during this season, He is turning up the heat, finding the gold and bringing His refining fire. Job makes a powerful statement of faith as he says of the Lord, "When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold." God knew Job's heart and Job knew the heart...

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

In 1971, I was invited to spend one month in Singapore at a new institute that had been started by John Haggai. It was still in the formative stages then—a place where Asian church leaders would be trained and challenged to witness for Christ. Today, more than 40...

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

It was a Pentecost bloodbath and most Christians never heard about it. More than 50 Christians were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks on Nigerians this year. Scores of gunmen rushed in to kill Christians in the midst of worship. All told, over 360 million...

RECENT ARTICLES

Prophecy: A Window of Time Has Opened for Believers to Preach the Truth

I was rejoicing and praising God on Friday, June 24, 2022, for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, knowing that an ungodly decree was overturned and one national curse was broken. I heard by the Holy...
The Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: The People I Saw in Hell

The Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: The People I Saw in Hell

In 1998, God gave me a life-changing vision of hell. I receive many questions about my experience from people all over the world, but one question I'm often asked is, "Who did you see in hell?" There are others who say they've had an experience like mine, and they...

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

One of the most amazing facts about the Founding Fathers of our nation is this: The one referred to as the "voice" of the revolution (John Adams) and the one referred to as the "pen" of the revolution (Thomas Jefferson) both died on the same day—July 4, 1826—exactly...

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

It’s a question I frequently hear. It’s one I’ve asked. And maybe it’s one you’ve asked, too. The question is, “God, why did You give this to me?” This can be any number of issues, from emotional or psychological struggles to symptoms or sicknesses, disabilities or...

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

I sense it. And I perceive a growing number of people in massive proportions sense the increasing momentum of power and might worldwide. Something is on the horizon—something more eerie and ominous than what the people of the world have ever before experienced. Even...

Pin It on Pinterest