Since the beginning of this great nation, Americans have been committed to the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and religion. It requires that our government respect every individual’s legal right to practice their religious beliefs, speak freely of their moral convictions, operate schools and colleges, and live peacefully with others without government interference.
For over 60 years, however, the Johnson Amendment has been prohibiting free speech in our churches. Many pastors and other religious leaders have been afraid to speak biblical truth from their pulpits for fear of harassment and punishment by the government who can take away their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
Erik Stanley, Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, recently remarked, “Americans don’t need a federal tax agency to be the speech police of churches or any other non-profit groups, who have a constitutionally protected freedom to decide for themselves what they want to say or not say.”
A new bill, The Free Speech Fairness Act, has been introduced by Representative Jody Hice and Senator James Lankford, that will restrict the enforcement of the Johnson Amendment and allow churches to speak freely of politics and other matters without intimidation by the IRS. Erik Stanley further commented, “By removing the threat of an IRS investigation and potential penalties based simply, for example, on what a pastor says from the pulpit, this bill brings the law into conformity with the First Amendment. This law that was enacted by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1954, and was never intended to affect churches and other non-profit groups but has been used to intimidate them ever since. The government can’t base any tax exemption on a requirement that a church or any other non-profit organization surrender a constitutionally protected freedom, including free speech.”
In recent years the Alliance Defending Freedom (http://www.adflegal.org/) has attempted to challenge the Johnson Amendment through the Pulpit Freedom Initiative, which urges church ministers to violate the statute in protest. The ADF contends that the amendment violates First Amendment rights.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for the repeal of the amendment. At the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 2017, President Trump, vowed to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment.
Please pray that the Free Speech Fairness Act will be approved, and the Johnson Amendment will eventually be overturned. Pray that pastors and other religious leaders will no longer be intimidated or harassed by the IRS for preaching political matters and be able to speak freely of biblical issues deemed “off limits” by the government.
– Luis Josephus
Join the Pulpit Freedom Movement
For almost the first 200 years in America, pastors spoke freely and boldly from their pulpit about the issues of the day, including candidates running for office. But in 1954, the passage of one piece of legislation effectively overturned this freedom: The Johnson Amendment. A pastor’s pulpit should be accountable to God alone, and the future of religious freedom in America depends on it. The good of our society depends upon the ability of churches to speak freely. When the church is silent, the culture suffers.
It’s time to put an end to the Johnson Amendment. Go to:
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith. http://www.adflegal.org/