A San Diego megachurch pastor told his congregation Sunday that he plans to vote for Mitt Romney for president, but he stopped short of endorsing the Republican candidate.
"My endorsement will be Jesus," said Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. "I'll tell you whom I'm going to vote for, but I don't think that makes it an endorsement. I'm going to vote for Mitt Romney, but I'm not telling you to."
Garlow was among 1,477 pastors who signed up to preach on politics, specifically to present biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates, on Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Some have chosen to endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit. The pastors were challenging IRS regulations that ban tax-exempt religious organizations from participating in any political campaign.
"It's not a case ... that we're wanting to lose our tax exemption," Garlow told CNN Sunday. "We're wanting to reclaim which is ours constitutionally based on the First Amendment – freedom of speech and freedom of religion – which American pastors enjoyed for 166 years of American history until Lyndon Baines Johnson got it passed, the Johnson Amendment, with only a voice vote."
"It's never been taken to court in 58 years."
Pastors and Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, who organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday, are in fact hoping to provoke the IRS and take the amendment to court so that it can be declared unconstitutional.
Participating pastors recorded their sermons on Sunday to send to the IRS.
"Our line is very simple – no governmental intrusion into the life of the church at all," Garlow said on "The Colbert Report."
The Pennsylvania Pastors' Network supported the national initiative and has even launched its own statewide pulpit freedom movement.
"For far too long there has been a dearth of solid, ongoing, Biblical teaching about moral issues upon which politicians campaign," said Sam Rohrer, president of the network. "People aren't hearing what the Bible has to say about the moral and relevant cultural issues from their pastors or the Church. Because our citizens are not taught that the Bible provides clear instruction on all matters of public policy and moral issues and has all the answers we need for the challenges of the day, individuals are left to their own devices and determinations of right and wrong, rather than depending on God's Word.
"The result has been that many Christians (the small percentage that even vote) don't hold to clear Biblical positions on moral and cultural issues because they lack a mature Christian worldview, despite their profession of Christian faith and they end up helping to elect candidates who are incapable of defending matters of truth."
Some 2,200 attorneys are prepared to defend any churches in court pro bono. Pulpit Freedom Sunday was launched in 2008 with 33 pastors.
A poll released by LifeWay Research last week found that most Protestant pastors (87 percent) believe pastors should not endorse candidates from the pulpit. Only 10 percent believe such endorsements should be made. While they draw the line at endorsements, most pastors say the government has no place "in determining what is and is not said from their pulpits regarding candidates," according to a 2011 LifeWay survey.