This Sunday is the fourth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Is your pastor participating?
Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a day set aside for pastors to preach a sermon where they apply Biblical principles to an individual candidate and show whether the candidate measures up to God’s standard or not. Then, the pastor mails a copy of the audio or video recording of the sermon to the IRS basically daring the IRS to take his church to court. You may recall from the Liberty Council’s Political and Legislative Guidelines, Pastors can legally endorse candidates but not from the pulpit. Consequently, pastors who participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday are crossing the line.
I first heard about Pulpit Freedom Sunday two years ago after the fact. My first thought was that the pastors participating had gone too far and were pushing the envelope beyond what they should, but had they gone to far; or was the IRS dictating what pastors can and can’t preach about?
After hearing an Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) lawyer explain that these types of sermons were commonplace in America prior to the founding era up until about 50 years ago, I changed my mind. In 1954, Senator Lyndon Johnson, after having a non-profit corporation campaign against him, added an amendment to the IRS 501c3 code prohibiting non-profit corporations from participating in political campaigns. (Politicians will always look for ways to silence their opponents!) This amendment wasn’t intended to regulate what can and can’t be preached, but it has been used to censor pastors’ sermons ever since. The ADF believes the amendment is unconstitutional, and they believe that the IRS doesn’t think it will stand up in court either. Perhaps that’s why the IRS has been reluctant to take a church to court over this.
In 2008, 33 pastors participates in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. In 2009, 80 pastors participated. In 2010, nearly 100 pastors, including me, participated. Of those who have participated, the IRS has not prosecuted any pastor or revoked the 501c3 status of any church! This year, the ADF hopes to have several hundred pastors participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.
I will again participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday this year. Please consider encouraging your pastor to do the same. If he has never heard of this concept before, he may need some time to research this issue, and the church leadership should be in agreement prior to preaching such a sermon. The Alliance Defense Fund has designed a website where you, your pastor, and your church leadership can education yourselves on the legal history and arguments involved in participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.