Jewish Journal

Ministers to challenge tax laws, preach on Obama and McCain

by Brad A. Greenberg

September 10, 2008 | 1:18 pm

Thanks, Rev.

I wonder if Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund (mentioned yesterday), is one of those people who think the Internal Revenue Service lacks the authority to enforce tax laws and, therefore, we should just stop paying taxes.

Stanley’s position on this is unstated, but he wrote Monday on TownHall.com that “IRS Rules Don’t Trump the Constitution.”

In that, he put out a call to pastors bold enough to preach politics from the pulpit Sept. 28. Not just the politics of social conservatism: he wants pastors to actually advocate specific candidates. The ADF, a sort of evangelical ACLU, will pick up the legal defense.

“The truth is, the Pulpit Initiative is not about serving any candidate or political party or turning a church into a political action committee,” Stanley wrote. “The initiative is about restoring the constitutional right of pastors to speak freely from the pulpit without any fear of punishment by the government for doing what churches do: speak on any number of cultural and societal issues from a biblical perspective—and that includes commenting on the positions of electoral candidates, if they so choose.

“Arguing that a tax agency should hold veto power over sermon content is like arguing that the Department of Transportation should decide a school lunch menu. Pastors spoke freely about the policy positions of candidates for elective office throughout American history, even endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit, without anyone ever questioning whether churches should remain tax exempt. It was commonplace—indeed expected—for pastors to speak in support of or in opposition to candidates until the Johnson Amendment was inserted quietly into the tax code in 1954 with no legislative analysis or debate.”

This effort is rooted in the oppressed-Christian myth, and it is nonsense.

Practically speaking, church is he last place I want to hear about the presidential election. That’s not why I go to church. I go to worship God and commune with others and, believe it or not, study the Bible. The Bible—not a pastor’s application of one verse from and omission of another for political purposes. If I wanted that, I’d go to campaign rallies.

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