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Ministry Challenges IRS 'Muzzling' of Pastors Talking Politics From the Pulpit

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By Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter
May 30, 2012|5:44 pm

Truth in Action Ministries, a Christian national media organization, has been urging members of the public to sign a petition calling for a repeal of the IRS regulation that prohibits pastors from sharing their thoughts on political candidates from the pulpit.

Current federal law gives the IRS authority to investigate and punish churches if pastors publicly endorse a political candidate for office during a church service, a restriction which Truth in Action Ministries believes violates the First Amendment right to free speech. The petition, which seeks support for a measure called H.R. 3600, wants "to restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations," and is being pushed by North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones.

Dr. Jerry Newcombe, spokesperson for Truth and Action Ministries, shared with The Christian Post that the original amendment that banned all nonprofit groups from engaging in election activity was submitted in 1954 by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, who later became president. Newcombe claimed that Johnson "sneaked in" the proposal, which was quickly voted on and became law without a hearing or public debate, and as a result now all churches across America have to abide by that rule.

The IRS website explains that the bill, known as the Johnson Amendment, "prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one 'which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.'"

"What we are trying to say basically 'Hey, enough with this. This doesn't sit well with the First Amendment,'" Dr. Newcomb shared with CP.

"We are not saying that pastors should be partisan or supporting of a political candidate, but they certainly should be able to speak out on issues that may have political implications," he added.

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The Truth in Action Ministries petition declares: "With your help today, we will defend free speech and continue proclaiming the Gospel to a nation in grave need." Statistics on how many people have signed the petition so far were not yet available.

Most recently, the IRS was asked by the atheist and agnostic Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to investigate pastor Charles Worley from Providence Road Baptist Church in N.C., who made national headlines by suggesting that gays and lesbians should be placed behind electrified fences and left to die out.

Pastor Worley also had some strong words to say about President Obama, although he did not outright say the president's name in his remarks.

"I tell you right now, somebody said, 'who you gonna vote for?' I ain't gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!" Worley said during the controversial sermon, which came only weeks after Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage.

"There can be no doubt that he intentionally took this political stance from the pulpit," FFRF's letter to the IRS stated. "The conclusion is unavoidable: Pastor Worley knowing and intentionally spoke from his church's pulpit when he said that the Bible, God, he, and anyone with sense is against gay marriage and should therefore refuse to vote for President Obama."

 

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