Pulpit Free Sunday: It was only the Start

The Facts

  • The First Amendment states, “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.”
  • The First Amendment clearly allows churches to exist, and allows people to attend the church of their choice.
  • Although not in the First Amendment, Thomas Jefferson wrote “separation of church and state” in a paper.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court first used the phrase in 1878 (Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 U.S)
  • In 1954, Congress added Section 501(c)(3) to the tax code to prohibit intervention in political campaigns by tax-exempt organizations.
  • Section 501(c)(3) only limits a pastor’s political involvement from the pulpit, but not as a citizen.
  • Churches may be politically involved at the expense of losing their tax exemption.
  • Courts have upheld 501(c)(3).
  • The Pew Research Center shows two-thirds of us oppose church involvement in partisan politics
  • The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) challenges the IRS about pastors endorsing candidates from the pulpit.
  • Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) introduces HR 2275 seeking to repeal 501(c)(3).
  • On Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008, approximately 30 pastors (supported by the ADF) challenge the IRS by endorsing a candidate from the pulpit.
  • The next day, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State file complaints to the IRS about the sermons.
  • To this date, the IRS has yet to react.

When faced with a choice, the ADF clearly wants both political involvement and tax-exempt status. They challenge the definition of religious activity in the same way they challenge defining science in the evolution-creation debate. Without an agreed upon definition, how can a resolution occur when there is a disagreement about the actual question.

The Pulpit Freedom pastors knowingly and willingly violated a standard with a known consequence in hopes of overturning 501(c)(3). Given current congressional composition, HB 2275 has little-to-no hope; therefore the ADF is promoted the action so they challenge the anticipated IRS reaction in the courts. Since the IRS has yet to react, the ADF awaits with its claws poised for attack. After all, the once clearly-defined wall separating church and state has been eroded over the past 20 years.

Repealing 501(c)(3) and losing their tax-exempt status would financially impact congregations and their outreach missions; but I don’t think that will happen.

On the other hand, repealing 501(c)(3) while maintaining tax-exempt status allows congregations to play political football with its membership. This would work within a homogeneous church, but such a church is seldom the case. Politics from the pulpit only divides congregations because church members are from a wide range of experiences, backgrounds, and political beliefs that come together in their faith journey.

ADF’s senior legal counsel writes, “Government has no business being in the pulpits of America.” So I ask, does church have business being in America’s government?

This is not a conflict between church and state, but rather a tactic by those seeking to force their societal ideology through political clout. After all, the religious right knows what is best for all of us.

IRS Information

Newsweek Opinion

Fox News (see comments too)

Opposing Vews

Wikipedia Church and State

14 thoughts on “Pulpit Free Sunday: It was only the Start

  1. i would really love to answer with some intelligence on this post, but i’ve got such mixed feelings about it all!

    it’s very thought provoking Afank, that’s for sure…..i don’t like the fact that the schools can now “cut” the words “under god” out of the pledge of allegiance, i don’t like the fact that in schools (at least here) we can’t celebrate christmas….it’s called “winter festival” here. to a degree i can see the point of the other religions having issues’, but c’mon……

    we are all under god are we not? or maybe it’s just me that feels this way. I’m do not go to church, because i can feel some restraints in church……but i DO believe in god, in heaven & hell…….does the government have a right to step in? NO! just like i feel the government has no right to tell me i cannot bear arms, if i’m properly trained to do so…..

    we as people, no matter what religion, what god we pray to, should be able to make our own minds up!

    i’m sure i did NOT answer the way some might want me to, but this is my thought…… 🙂

    thank you Afrank, for a very thought provoking, letting me ramble post LOL!


    • CK: Thanks for the thoughtful response. I always appreciate thoughtful responses and never seek answers to please me.

      To me, much of what you mentioned falls under political correctness – which, simply put, would be a book rather than a post. I’m with you on that one!

      With Pulpit Free Sunday, fhe ADF ichallenged a law of polticizing from the pulpit. Since the IRS hasn’t reacted, who knows where this will go – well, except straight to the courts.

      Dang it … Political agendas are all over the place!

      Smile … and I’ll be lighter tomorrow.


  2. Great post Frank.

    First off, I do go to church, but not as often as I should be. But no should be told what religion to follow or believe in.

    I’m still waiting for them to change the “In God We Trust” line on all the dollar bills!

    I’m also waiting for them to tell me how to post a blog next. And with that, you just added to my insanity with a possible entry I have in mind.

    Nice job!


    • Thanks David … and glad I gave you an idea (somehow) … LOL.

      For me, if a pastor preaches blatent politics from the pulpit, odds are got that I’m out of there. Two thoughts from friends of mine: church is a place were diverse thoughts in politics are forgotten and come together for one purpose … politics from the pulpit only creates division.

      Coming off an election year, I’ve had this post in the making for a long time, but just wanted to get it off my chest …. but back to lower key stuff tomorrow … it’s been a “heavy” week!


  3. I did stray into the political correctness part, i think i have more of a hang up with that now lol!

    Smile … and I’ll be lighter tomorrow.


    smiling now, thank you for that ! i await tomorrows blog!!


  4. I’ll just say this….I don’t want to hear politics at Church, just as I don’t want to hear politics on the telecast of tonights game….I also do’t want hear religion brought up at a city council meeting….Or on tonights telecast…

    Separation of Church and State was created by “our founding fathers” because they wanted to get away from religous persecution….Now when it comes to politics I fall in the middle….I have both “conservative” and “liberal” views….I want less imput from the government…They stick their nose everywhere, but where it should be…As a lifelong Catholic (who often goes against the church’s views) I’d like less imput from religion also.

    Look, Ithink I fell in the middle again.


    • Good points BEEZE, but I don’t think you’re in the middle … ha ha … actually on target with my point because there’s a group that wants politics from the pulpit …. and there’s a side of me that thinks they may get it.


  5. I’m so glad you let me know about this post. It is excellent! The things you write never cease to amaze me.

    You always leave your readers eager for your next post.

    Kindest Regards,



  6. HA! I love this. In 2006 we had a State Senator, Congressman and two Mayoral Candidates visit my church asking for our support. Only one was Republican.

    My father, who is the pastor instructed me not to say anything or ask any questions when the politicians made remarks. I guess he knows I would ask too many questions or may suggest something that may make everyone uncomfortable. I don’t know, but since I couldn’t vote for any of them it didn’t matter too much to me. They wasn’t running for Mayor of my city, Governor, Senate or President so I kept quiet. They were OK, typical.

    Churches should be careful about their political leanings, especially ministers. It’s the one reason why I have not went into the ministry, I would have to give a disclaimer at the top of any statement I made. This is a good post.


    • Tim,
      To me, well – in my bizarre way – politics from the pulpit is only applicable when the in a homogeneous church when 100% of the congregation politically agrees with the pastor 100% of the time. Which also means if you or I move, no more!

      Learning for the personal experience of others is always appreciated and important. Thanks for sharing!


  7. The first amendment is pretty clear, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

    What has happened instead is that activist judges have stepped outside their bounds to make such laws. Prohibiting the free exercise of religion in places that receive government funding is a process gone too far. Some of the activities of the ACLU in this area are way beyond reasonable.

    Seeing this happen, some pastors have decided not to sit idly by. That is one reason that some pastors have challenged the federal government in this area.


    • Thersites,
      Overturning a ruling in order to seek legislative and judicial gain activism in itself?
      Isn’t overturning also in order to gain specific religious preference in both legislation and judicial venues?
      Thanks for the comment.


  8. Judicial activism is when judges create law where none existed before or rule on a case with no regard for sound legal precedent. The courts’ rightful duties are to interpret laws created by the legislative branch.

    But your question seems to be about political activism directed toward the court… In my opinion it is wrong to attempt to create law thru the judicial system no matter where you are on the political spectrum.

    BUT, the court is there to give rulings on law and it is inevitable that someone will gain in these rulings. I wouldn’t call it activism unless it is institutionalized activity by groups such as the ACLU.

    My original point above is that the movement that has taken religion out of public venues has come about almost entirely thru the courts and was originally based on slim precedent. What has happened could have legitimately been done thru the legislative branches. Instead, a few unelected judges have made laws restricting religious practices. Whether you agree with their rulings, this method of creating law is wrong.


    • David,
      Let me remind you that the statute currently in place regarding politics and the pulpit, was passed by Congress … not by the courts … and it seems that the current challenge is to get it into the courts …. although past challenges have upheld the statute.


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