I am angry because the government and the IRS and some Christians have taken away the rights of pastors. I have a right to endorse anybody I doggone well please. And if they don't like that, too bad.News reports from the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post say that this act of civil disobedience found other takers as well hoping to become a case to challenge the constitutionality of a 1954 law prohibiting religious organizations from endorsing candidates if they accept tax-deductible contributions. The law does not prohibit free speech, so much as to disallow endorsements made by tax exempt groups.
The L.A. Times article quoted the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, saying "Pastors have a responsibility to the whole of their flock to provide spiritual support and guidance" but not partisan political advice.
Here is Martin Marty's take Pulpit Freedom from the IRS.
My opinion on this issue ran in the Tribune & Georgian a while back The Pulpit vs. The Taxman in which I concluded:
Personally, I feel that my views on whom I vote for are not for public broadcast. I do what I expect all people of faith do in voting. I say my prayers and then cast my votes. I know that faithful Christians often disagree on the best candidate and this is just fine. This side of the kingdom of God, no earthly power is going to get it all right all the time anyway. And God will work in and through any person of any background and will work in spite of any person of any background. This is not to say that for whom we vote is of no consequence, but to say that we can not and will not usher in heaven on earth no matter who lives in the governor’s mansion or the White House. However in hindsight it is clear the church did not speak up loud enough or strongly enough against Hilter and Mussolini and it ushered in hell on earth for millions.In fact, this past Sunday's sermon is as political as I care to get (not "political" and no where near endorsing anyone). Read for yourself The Gospel and The Economic Crisis, so maybe I kept the Sunday in my own way even if I didn't know about it until after the fact. That's my take on it. What is yours?
This is why the church must be able to speak out against injustice. The Bible casts a different understanding of the world. It is an upside down view of life in which the least are the greatest and the last are first. Jesus says (in Matthew 25:31-46) that the judgment at the end of time will have everything to do with how the least are treated. Are the needy fed, clothed and comforted? If not, then we will have some explaining to do. So the church cannot hand over all its rights to speak against injustice even if that means dancing the thin line that sometimes separates politics and religion.
I don’t have to stump for any candidate to speak up for those who are hungry, naked, sick or in prison. But I do need to be able to speak plainly to the ways in which we as Christians have a responsibility to seek justice in the here and now. We do this knowing that no candidate, no political party, and no government will ever be so godly that it will not need someone to speak up for those with no voice or whose voice is going unheard. And there is no legal basis to tax that constitutionally protected speech.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor