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Pastors and Politics: 6 Misconceptions About the Johnson Amendment

Pastors and Politics: 6 Misconceptions About the Johnson Amendment

3. The Johnson Amendment would never survive a legal challenge

The aforementioned Pulpit Freedom Sunday observance is geared toward creating a lawsuit against the IRS to lead to the striking down of the Johnson Amendment as unconstitutional.

"Alliance Defending Freedom wants to generate test cases that we can carry to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to end the unconstitutional restrictions that now exist infringing on the rights of pastors to use moral and biblical standards to support or oppose candidates for public office," stated the ADF.

However, in the past the Johnson Amendment survived a legal challenge back in 1999 in the case of Branch Ministries Inc. vs. Charles O. Rossotti.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District of Columbia upheld the Johnson Amendment when ruling against a church that ran ads against then President Bill Clinton.

"In the circumstances presented here — where a tax-exempt church bought an advertisement that stated its opposition to a particular candidate for public office, attributed the advertisement to the church and solicited tax-deductible contributions for the advertisement — the IRS was justified in revoking the tax-exempt status of the church," read Friedman's decision.

"Plaintiffs were offered a choice: they could engage in partisan political activity and forfeit their Section 501(c)(3) status or they could refrain from partisan political activity and retain their Section 501(c)(3) status. That choice is unconnected to plaintiffs' ability to freely exercise their religion. Plaintiffs therefore have not demonstrated that the IRS substantially burdened their free exercise of religion."

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