Christian pastors, you are now free to talk about politics from the pulpit. You can even endorse a candidate. And when your sermon is finished, you can register people to vote right in your church. Who gave you this right? Well, first, the First Amendment does:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Notice that it states that “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. In addition, it can’t prohibit you from speaking about politics, writing about politics (putting stuff in the bulletin), assembling about politics, even on Sunday, or actively working to change those holding government offices.
The word “Congress” does not refer to what states can or can’t do, but only what Congress can and can’t do. Jurisdiction has not been given to the Supreme Court to nullify what the First Amendment covers. The Constitution uses the word “Congress” 60 times, and it never means anything but the legislative branch. In a word, Congress can’t prohibit what is said from the pulpit about anything, including politics.
Second, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett has set the example of what can be done in a church regarding politics.
On the Sunday before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, she visited Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to give a political speech, in support of her boss (Barack Obama) and congressional Democrats. Here’s what she said:
“Teachers, and firefighters, and policemen, whose jobs are now in jeopardy because Congress, well let me be specific, because the Republicans in congress …” Before she could finish her sentence, people in the congregation were laughing, and applauding.
It got even better. “At the end of Sunday’s sermon, after Jarrett had delivered her remarks to the congregation, the church held a voter registration drive.”
There you have it. Pastors don’t have any excuses. If the ACLU or Americans United for Separation of Church and State complain and try to sic the IRS on a church that addresses political themes from the pulpit, just send them a link to this video where the reporter describes the MLK service where Jarrett spoke more of a “political rally than a church service.”
There are no constitutional prohibitions against churches speaking out on political issues or endorsing candidates. We got into this mess when in 1954 a law was rammed through Congress by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson to restrict churches from speaking freely on topics they have addressed for nearly two millennia. The following is from the IRS:
In 1954, Congress approved an amendment by Sen. Lyndon Johnson to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity. To the extent Congress has revisited the ban over the years, it has in fact strengthened the ban. The most recent change came in 1987 when Congress amended the language to clarify that the prohibition also applies to statements opposing candidates.
Congress has no authority to overturn a provision in the Bill of Rights, especially when the its first words are “Congress shall make no law. . . .”
If you are a pastor who believes in the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment and want to challenge these leftist organizations and the IRS, then I have a deal for you. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group, will defend you.
In response to more than 50 years of threats and intimidation by activist groups wielding the Johnson Amendment as a sword against the Church, ADF began the Pulpit Initiative in 2008. The goal of the Pulpit Initiative is simple: have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional — and once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.
ADF is actively seeking to represent churches or pastors who are under investigation by the IRS for violating the Johnson Amendment by preaching biblical Truth in a way that expresses support for — or opposition to — political candidates. ADF represents all of its clients free of charge.
Don’t be bullied. Valerie Jarrett will stand behind you.