'Pulpit Freedom Sunday' to Defy IRS
Pastors across the U.S. say they will talk politics from the pulpit.
Sept. 25, 2010 -- Nearly 100 pastors across the country planned to take part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an in-your-face challenge on Sunday to what the government says can and cannot be said in church.
The pastors, along with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based nonprofit Alliance Defense Fund, are reacting to a law stating that churches are not allowed to support politicians from the pulpit, according to the ADF.
The growing trend is a challenge to the IRS from the churches, and may jeopardize their all-important tax-exempt status. But some pastors and church leaders said they are willing to defy the law to defending their right to freedom of speech.
Federal tax law, established in 1954, prohibits churches and tax exempt entities from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an initiative organized by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization, which according to its website seeks to "defend the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation."
"We believe that a pastor has a right to speak whatever he believes without fearing the government will somehow censor what he says or threaten to take away his tax exemption," ADF spokesman Erik Stanley said.
He said the group believes that the 1954 amendment, sponsored by then Sen. Lyndon Johnson, D-Texas, is a violation of the Constitution. According to the ADF, the government's monitoring of the content of pastors' and churches' speech is a violation of the Free Speech Clause.
The IRS will be keeping an eye on the planned activities.
"We are aware of recent press reports, and will monitor the situation and take action as appropriate," IRS spokesman Robert Marvin said.
In 2008, 33 pastors took part in the first Pulpit Freedom Sunday, when they defiantly spoke of politics to their congregation.
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