The First Amendment clearly states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech….”
Yesterday was “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an event begun in 2008. Participation has grown three-fold since last year, with nearly 1,500 daring pastors taking part on Sunday. The movement has grown steadily in size, with just 33 pastors participating in 2008, rising to 539 last year and to a record 1,477 this year.
Clergy in churches across the nation not only endorsed candidates from the pulpit, but have sent the tapes of the services directly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), daring the IRS to challenge them, while jeopardizing the tax exempt status enjoyed by houses of worship.
Under the U.S. tax code, non-profit organizations such as churches may express views on any issue, but they risk their favorable tax-exempt status if they speak for or against any political candidate.
Detractors claim clergy diminish their standing and damage their faith when they use their pulpits to further a political candidate. They even cite the destruction of the First Amendment and altering the nature of faith.
But the inception of this gag on free speech has it roots in the Democrat Party, not in the Constitution. It first appeared in 1954 not 1776, pushed by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson as HR 235. Johnson offered an amendment to a revenue bill that permanently extended the grasp of the IRS into our nation’s houses of worship. Since that time, the IRS has turned the 501(c)(3) code-section on its head in an attempt to stifle pastors for communicating the principles of faith during an election period.
The tax-exempt status for churches is the monetary benefit extended to them by the government, along with allowances for individuals to deduct their contributions to religious organizations. It comes with long and controlling strings.
The question is, if pushed to the wall, how many will actually stand up for the First Amendment and give up the benefits?
A history of the Johnson Amendment can be seen here: