by Autumn Leva
What if we said: Pastors should be free to follow their conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit as they lead their congregations.
We’d all agree, right?
But what about “controversial social issues” such as the sanctity of life or marriage? Okay, what about political candidates and where they stand on issues important to the church?
People often feel squeamish when pastors talk about these issues. But why? The Bible speaks clearly about life, marriage, godly civil leaders and many other issues facing us today. The reason people feel more squeamish about pastors speaking out is something called the “Johnson Amendment.”
For more than 60 years, the IRS has used the Johnson Amendment as a ominous threat to keep pastors from preaching freely from the pulpit. Under the Johnson Amendment, First Amendment rights have become bargaining chips to be exchanged for a tax status. Pastors who share biblical truth that overlaps with modern day politics could risk intrusive IRS audits, incur steep fines, and even jeopardize their church’s tax-exempt status.
We understand that not every pastor will choose to engage on these topics, but the larger point is this: Shouldn’t the pastor be free to choose? If a pastor is deeply convicted to talk about the Bible’s position on “controversial social issues” such as life and marriage, shouldn’t the pastor be free to do so?
It’s time to fix the Johnson Amendment. We’re proud to partner with our allies at Alliance Defending Freedom in supporting the Free Speech Fairness Act, a bill that would fix the Johnson Amendment and restore First Amendment freedoms to our pulpits — and, ultimately, restore the freedom of choice for pastors.
We’re also proud to partner with our state-based family policy groups who serve on the front lines in more than 40 states — working to advocate for religious freedom for local churches at state capitols, help churches in your state know the law, and to fight bad bills that would strip churches and pastors of more freedoms.
And here’s how you can help end the Johnson Amendment and support religious freedom for churches in your state.
- Please take a minute to send an email to your elected leaders in D.C., asking them to pass the Free Speech Fairness Act, today. Simply add your name to the letter here.
- Have you connected with your state’s family policy group? Find your state here.
Thank you for partnering with our alliance to strengthen religious freedom in every state across the country!
The church in America is worried; worried about engaging in politics. Some congregants may believe that speaking about politics from the pulpit is not entirely appropriate. Further, there is often the concern of pastors that their church may lose its nonprofit status or perhaps lose financial support. So, this week I present a challenge – a challenge to pastors and their congregations.
I’ve talked to many pastors over the years and have come to realize that many simply see too many “downsides” and very few “upsides” in addressing political issues from the pulpit. I get it.
Pastor Gus Booth, someone intimately familiar with this issue, puts it this way in his book SHHHH! Be Quiet Christian: “There are so many in the church who say things like, ‘Don’t preach anything political. I want theology and a spiritual message, but if you get involved in politics, then you schism the church.’” However, I am convinced that the gospel doesn’t exempt any portion of our life being transformed by the saving work of Christ, so if we are preaching the Word or seeking to apply it to our lives, shouldn’t this be at least one of those facets?
The Johnson Amendment has struck fear in the hearts of pastors for over 62 years. While it doesn’t prohibit churches from providing general information about political topics, it does wrongly restrict churches from endorsing particular candidates. Do you know the number of churches that have been successfully prosecuted under this law in the past six decades? As NPR reports, “According to the alliance [Alliance Defending Freedom], as reported by the Washington Post, only one of more than 2,000 Christian clergy deliberately challenging the law since 2008 has been audited, and none has been punished.” So why the fear? Particularly in light of President Trump’s recent executive order effectively easing some of the Johnson Amendment’s restrictions, let’s be bold!
Like all nonprofits, churches operate on revenues, and most of these revenues come from congregants. Generally speaking, over 90% of church revenues come from regular giving by church members. It is undeniable that giving to their church should be the first priority of congregants. The possibility certainly exists that the topic of politics might create a divide or upset certain members of the congregation, with the result that they might take their charitable giving elsewhere. However, I would maintain that churches need to lead and educate their members on all aspects of biblical citizenship. Over the years, my father preached some unpopular sermons and congregants sometimes became upset, left, or stopped their giving. However, I am very proud he chose to preach those difficult sermons!
Let me close with this. I have a deep and abiding respect for the church as an organization and as the body of Christ. God established it and we must love the church and help it grow. However, I would challenge those in church leadership to speak boldly on how Christians can and should allow their faith to flow into all parts of their lives. I also challenge church members to encourage their spiritual leaders to address important political issues.
Christianity is not a partial change in our lives, it affects all facets, so let’s help each other translate that faith in a holistic and comprehensive way!
TAKE ACTION: We need your help to encourage and equip churches to boldly live out their faith in every aspect of life—including playing an active role in the political Sphere. The political process and our state Capitol is a unique mission field. Will you partner with us to prepare churches to have a greater influence in politics and government?
If you’re dreaming of a conservative Christmas – you’re not alone!
We’re giving you the opportunity to send this “Christmas Wish List” to the new president! You can send it to Mr. Trump quickly and easily through the Family Policy Alliance Action Center.