Thursday, November 6, 2008

ADF: More on their free speech pulpit initiative

Pulpit Initiative

Restoring the right of pastors to speak freely

Why? That is a question we hear a lot. Why would ADF get involved in something that will likely result in a federal lawsuit with the Internal Revenue Service? For the same reason—the only reason—ADF does everything: to defend religious liberty.

Who should decide what a church can talk about? Right now, according to IRS regulation, the government does. But if we let our government mark "politics" as off-limits today, then tomorrow the forbidden topics will be "politically correct" issues like homosexual behavior and abortion. And the government may one day decide that the Gospel itself—with all its talk of Jesus as the only way, sexual sin, male-female marriage, and absolute Truth—should be off-limits too.

That is a slippery slope we are unwilling to slide down.

Simply put, the Pulpit Initiative is a legal effort to secure the right of pastors to freely speak from their pulpits to their congregations and to freely act—from a scriptural basis—on political matters without improper censorship by the government.

In 1954, then Senator Lyndon Johnson proposed and the U.S. Senate adopted an amendment to a U.S. Senate bill overhauling the IRS code prohibiting churches from speaking out on political candidates for office. It is an amendment that legal scholars agree violates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. The so-called "Johnson amendment" is what many government officials—particularly the IRS—reference when seeking to limit what preachers preach about.

Specifically, they don't want pastors telling their congregations what the Bible says about political issues and the agendas of individual candidates.

Some church members don't want their pastors talking about those issues either. And that's fair enough—but most Christians can agree that this should be a decision made by the pastor and the church . . . not the IRS.

Dozens of pastors all across the country are challenging these limits on their sermons so that if the government tries to penalize clergy when they preach freely from their pulpit about candidates and elections, ADF will defend them by exposing in open court just how profoundly unconstitutional this amendment really is.

Complaints from ACLU ally Americans United for Separation of Church and State have already arrived on the doorstep of the IRS. We expect investigations of the churches and pastors who participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. We will defend them vigorously, all the way to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary. In fact, that would be an honor and a blessing – an opportunity to set the legal record straight regarding the basic freedom of pastors.

This goes to the very heart of our
God-given religious liberty
the First Amendment was meant to protect.

That makes the Pulpit Initiative a logical—indeed, inevitable—extension of what ADF has been doing since our inception.

With the Pulpit Initiative, ADF seeks to legally overturn this unjust regulation before it paves the way for even more government censorship of the Gospel.

· We are not saying that churches should be political.
· We are not encouraging your pastor to talk politics from the pulpit.
· We are not advocating a particular political point of view.
What we are saying—all we're saying—is that what a pastor does and does not talk about from his pulpit is an issue to be worked out between himself and his congregation. Pastors should have the freedom to teach the entire counsel of God's Holy Word without government intrusion.
Many Christians still don't realize that, for years now, houses of worship across America have been targeted for unfair and illegal penalties and prosecution. The nation's number-one religious censor, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is siding with its allies – namely Americans United for Separation of Church and State – in a massive campaign of fear, intimidation, and disinformation against those who would hear and speak the Truth of Jesus Christ.

For 15 years, ADF has been aggressively and successfully defending pastors and their congregations against the countless attacks. By God's infinite grace:
  • We've won "hate" crimes cases . . . lodged against people like Swedish pastor Ake Green, whom ADF attorneys traveled overseas to help gain an acquittal and avoid prison time after he was vengefully prosecuted for preaching a Biblically based sermon on homosexual behavior. Read more…
  • We've won equal access cases . . . like those filed against Canyon Ridge Baptist Church, which had been renting space for years at a recreation center in San Diego. The city allows other groups to use the recreation center either at no cost or for a nominal fee—but suddenly began charging religious groups like Canyon Ridge a much higher rate. ADF lawyers put a stop to that. Learn more…
  • We've won zoning cases . . . and free speech cases . . . and we're defending churches in cases for the right to hire church workers who share the church's religious convictions and not hire those who don't. All of these were within our ministry's mandate to defend religious freedom and keep the legal door open for the spread of the Gospel.
To defend religious freedom, ADF depends on the faithful and generous giving of great ministry friends like you, along with your ongoing prayer support. Please give your best gift today so we can continue this momentum of success.

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