Pulpit Freedom Sunday

This Sunday, several pastors throughout the United States will be celebrating "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," where they will take on the federal tax law which prohibits leaders of tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or promoting certain politicians.

This is a really, really bad idea. 

In the article linked above, pastor Gus Booth is quoted as saying, "I have a First Amendment right to say whatever I want to say, and I've never thought it was appropriate that as a pastor I could not share my political concerns with the congregation." Respectfully, Pastor Booth, your church also has the rights to pay taxes to the IRS for your failure to obey federal law. 

Regardless of federal law, the church has absolutely zero business endorsing political candidates as an institution. It's a horrible idea that confuses the issue the church is called to face, turns the pulpit into a political stump, and shrinks Christianity's scope from a global focus to a national focus. It also assumes that either the Christians in our pews are too stupid to read the Bible and reach their own conclusions in the voting booth, or that our preaching has so confused the biblical issues the Christians in our churches don't understand how to make spiritual decisions in matters like these. Either way, it's a poor reflection on the church. 

I have strong opinions when it comes to political issues, and firmly believe that one candidate is a much better candidate to be the president of the United States than the other. I'd be happy to share my opinions over coffee, but never from the pulpit. The pulpit is about Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), and every minute we spend promoting a candidate from the pulpit is a moment we're choosing not to promote the Message of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, as a church, the citizenship we should be pointing to is greater than even the United States - as much as we're thankful for this country's freedom (1 Peter 2:9-11). 

Politicizing the pulpit will only serve to distract people from Jesus, increase the degree of corruption as political candidates woo pastors to make statements, and flat-out breaks a federal tax law. Forget that you think the federal tax law is unconstitutional... breaking it intentionally is unbiblical (Romans 13:1). 

The pastors who endorse candidates from the pulpit this Sunday should be ashamed of themselves, and the Alliance Defense Fund should be as well. Not only are they missing and confusing the issue, they're likely to screw things up for the rest of us. The IRS would be perfectly justified in doing away with tax-exempt status for all churches, which would mean financial contributions to the church would not be tax deductible, and that churches would be subject to taxes themselves. That would be a huge hit to the budget of every single church in America... and all because a few pastors have decided to miss the point altogether. 


James W said...

I fully agree that endorsing a candidate is not the wisest move for a pastor. I don't even put up a sign for the candidate of my choice in my yard because I don't want it to be an issue that turns off my neighbors to the Gospel.

However, there is an element of this issues you might be missing. The current interpretation of the law keeps me from prophetically denouncing the sins of our leaders my name. It doesn't matter which candidate it is or your theological bent. If one sees abortion or the death penalty as immoral, why can't I name the candidate who endorses such things? Or if a candidate shows major lack of character (such as I think Clinton did), should I fear mentioning him by name?

I think the government has gone too far in restricting our freedom to speak what is truly religious pronouncements. That said, if the portrayal of these churches is correct, I don't agree with what they have done.

Chris Freeland said...


Thanks so much for the comment. I'm with you on denouncing sins of leaders - but wonder if people really need you to do it by name. The information age makes it pretty obvious who believes what about which issues.

My perspective is that we should help people develop a biblical worldview all the time (not just during election years), and then allow them to make informed decisions in the voting booth. They don't need their pastor to tell them that a certain candidate favors abortion - that information is easy to find out.

Chris Freeland said...

I really find your perspective on this issue refreshing. I wish that there were more pastors in the US who only used their pulpits to spread a true message from God, and held the politics for another setting. Kudos to your good work!