Beating Up The Bully Pulpit
Posted: October 6, 2002
On October 2nd, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down the “Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act” (H.R. 2357). This bill was designed to correct a law passed in 1954 when Senator Lyndon B. Johnson successfully attached a clause to a revenue finance bill that prohibited all tax-exempt groups - including churches - from participating in political activity. The penalty: loss of tax-exempt status. It seems that many in government still fear the voting power of Christians.
For the last 48 years, religious leaders and ministries have had to tread lightly around political issues, for fear that the I.R.S. would reinstitute the practice of throwing Christians to the lions. The current law is enforced selectively, with conservative Christian ministries being targeted much more doggedly than liberal ones. When the minister of an A.M.E church in New York invited then presidential candidate Al Gore to speak at his church, then proceeded to officially endorse him before his congregation, the I.R.S. initially did nothing. It wasn’t until other religious leaders decried the biased enforcement of the law, that the I.R.S finally sent a letter of admonition to this A.M.E. minister.
Still, a lack of information on what rights churches and religious leaders DO have is pervasive. Groups like the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State prefer the “religious right” to be woefully uninformed of their rights. Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United sends scare letters to various churches during election years, warning them to keep silent on political issues. Lynn, who was also associated with the ACLU, claims the title of “Reverend,” as he is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. However, his only involvement with the UCC kept him in their national office, working as a legislative counsel. We could find no evidence that he has ever pastored a local church, and he has evaded direct questioning from Reverend Jerry Falwell on that very issue.
Lynn’s organization says of itself on its website, “AU is proud of its role as the nation's leading opponent and watchdog of the Religious Right.” This organization, along with the ACLU, doesn’t feel one iota of concern for religious liberties. Instead, their goal is to quash the voice of opposition to the liberal issues they espouse. That’s the reason these groups target the “religious right,” and conveniently ignore the political activities of the religious left! They are a powerful lobby though, and were obviously successful in getting H.R. 2357 voted down.
Many religious leaders and organizations are unaware of the rights they DO have under the current law. Can you publish voter guides? Yes, as long as all candidates are given impartial treatment, and the range of issues addressed is broad. Can you speak out on matters like abortion and homosexual indoctrination of minors? Yes. Can you invite political candidates to speak at your church? Yes, provided you invite all candidates for the particular office, give them equal time, and do not show partiality towards one or against one. To get a more comprehensive understanding of the rights your church or religious organization DOES HAVE, check out the I.R.S. educational publication called the “Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations” (IRS Pub 1828). Click on the link to access this valuable guide, and print it out. You’ll probably be surprised at what you can do, but were convinced you couldn’t by the liberal fear mongers.
One particular point for everyone, whether you are on the board of a tax-exempt ministry or not, whether you’re clergy or laity: each individual has the right to political free speech. Yes, even ministers can share their personal opinions, provided they do not do so in their official capacity. And we ALL have the right to vote. This is one of the most important tools we have, and the only thing that may spare us from living in a completely secular society, where Christian beliefs constitute a perceived threat to good rule and order. If you have not registered to vote, please do so. Become educated on the positions of the candidates from whom you must select. Choose one who will represent you and the values you hold dear. We must take back our nation from the ACLU and from the Barry Lynns who seek to make us hide silently in the fringe corners of society!
* To see how your congressional representative voted on the Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act, H.R. 2357, click here to view the roll call.
© 2002 Contender Ministries
Last updated: October 6, 2002
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