By Dan Merica, CNN
In a sermon that likely broke the law, Indiana pastor Ron Johnson told his 400 congregants Sunday that for those who believe in the Bible, the decision to vote against President Barack Obama “is a no-brainer.”
“For Christian people who believe the Bible is the inspired world of God, it is not rocket science,” Johnson told CNN after his sermon.
Johnson’s anti-Obama sermonizing likely violated the so-called Johnson Amendment, an Internal Revenue Service rule that forbids churches that receive tax-exempt status from the federal government to intervene in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
But Johnson appears comfortable with defying the IRS. His sermon was part of a national campaign by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal organization that has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday since 2008, encouraging pastors to flout the Johnson Amendment with political endorsements from the pulpit.
Alliance Defending Freedom said that more 1,500 other pastors across the United States participated Sunday. The goal: to force the IRS to come down on these churches so the organization, whose network includes 2,200 attorneys, can test the Johnson Amendment’s constitutionality.
“The IRS has the ability and the authority to regulate their sermons. We are giving them the opportunity to do that, and if they challenge that, we will challenge that in court,” said Erik Stanley, Alliance Defending Freedom's senior legal counsel. “It is all about creating a test case to find the Johnson Amendment as unconstitutional.”
With less than a month until the presidential election, what was said at this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday could hold more sway than in previous years.
Critics say the movement is a Republican front dressed up as an exercise in religious freedom, an allegation the event organizer rejects.
“The ADF wants to elect the next president. They want to elect Mitt Romney,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This is not about some principle.”
Johnson denies that, noting on Sunday he did not endorse Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, but instead urged his congregation to vote against Obama, whose policies he called “un-American.”
He said the speech received a number of standing ovations.
When CNN asked to be put in touch with a church that plans to endorse the president, representatives from the organization said they don’t screen whom the churches plan to endorse.
The Alliance Defending Freedom has ties to other conservative Christian groups such as the American Family Association and Focus on the Family.
“I think there is a possibility that in some of these mega-churches, a pastor's saying it is OK to vote for Mitt Romney … could increase voter turnout,” Lynn said.
So far, the effort has received little to no response from the IRS.
The IRS did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Many of the sermons from Sunday will be sent to the nation’s tax collection agency, a move that organizers hope will make it easy for the IRS to come down on the churches. According to Stanley, the majority of the messages in past years have gone unnoticed, and only a handful of pastors receive letters, some of which threaten to revoke the churches' tax-exempt status.
This nonenforcement by the IRS has emboldened some pastors and the Alliance Defending Freedom, said Lynn of Americans United. According to pastors who have participated in the past, the fact the IRS rarely if ever comes down on these churches encourages them to keep endorsing.
Stanley and the Alliance Defending Freedom theorize that the IRS doesn’t want to be challenged in court and that the agency may be disorganized.
But the lack of enforcement stems from bureaucratic uncertainty about what rank an IRS official must be to initiate an investigation, Lynn said.
In the past, the IRS has investigated churches that it suspected of violating the Johnson Amendment.
Four days before the 1992 presidential election, the Landmark Church in Binghamton, New York, ran a full-page ad in USA Today that said, "Christians Beware," followed by a list of Bill Clinton's positions on homosexuality, abortion and the distribution of condoms. At the bottom, the church asked for donations to help pay for the ad.
According to Lynn, Americans United filed a complaint, and the church lost its tax-exempt status in 1995.
Landmark Church pastor Dan Little took the IRS to court, arguing the agency was violating the church's First Amendment rights and the agency was only able to revoke the tax-exempt status of a "religious organization," not an actual church.
Both a U.S. District Court judge and a federal appeals court rejected those arguments.
Johnson, the Indiana pastor, laughs when asked about those who question whether a pastor should be allowed to endorse from the pulpit.
“Pastors understand the so-called separation of church and state, as it is currently understood. We understand how marginalized we are becoming,” Johnson said. “We are supposed to be part of the community discussion about issues that matter.”
There is a fundamental dishonesty in the use of the argument that churches and pastors should be denied political expression because of separation of church and state The real issue is that those with this position just don't like and disagree with the positions expressed by these pastors. How come this argument wasn't used back in the civil rights era? King openly used his pulpit for political and social causes. Why no problem with that? Why no threats to have his church's tax exempt status removed? Ah! Because the real issue is many want to muzzle those with whom they disagree and the separation of church and state argument is a convenient cover to do so.
You're right. They should be allow just like the rest of us. But then they should get taxed as well. There are sacrifices and consequences- if you want to advocate politics you should have to pay taxes.
Yet you have no problem ignoring (repeatedly) the basic fact that these pastors voluntarily agreed to the requirements governing their tax exempt status. Nope, no inherent dishonesty there.
2 things. The motivation for raising the issue is, for some, inherently dishonest because they never raised this issue when pastors and churches supported causes they agreed with but only for those they disagree with.
The other point is that if other nonprofit organizations can be active politically without jeopardizing their tax exempt status why should religious organizations be subject to more restrictions than a secular nonprofit politically active organization?
Ok first off, Keep your religion out of my government. Second, if you want to break the rules and keep all of your tax free properties and contributions then don't sway your congregation's vote. You are there to preach religion not campaign for Romney.
So why is no one against all of the preachers pulpitting for Obama?
The govt cannot expect to impose legal mandates on the churches that remain faithful to their biblical foundations while also muzzling their voice. A preacher need not voice approval or disapproval of a candidate...but merely preach true biblical principals and let the congregation make the obvious assessment of the candidates based on their track records.
I go back and forth on this. On one side, I disagree emphatically with his assertion that Christians can only vote for Romney/Repubs. On the other side, it doesn't sit well with me that the government has any authority to regulate what a person says in his own church. Then back on the first side, I suppose all the IRS can do is revoke their tax-exempt status–which just means the church may have to shut down the Starbucks in their lobby and pay some taxes.
Is Starbucks a religious organization??
I guess if it's in the lobby........LOL
Revoke their tax exemptions immediately. Preferably for all religious organizations but definitely for these. There is no excuse for their free ride and if they don't follow the rules we should.
WOW!!!! Since when did Christianity become exclusively an American religion? For this pastor to allegedly do what he did because he finds the President's policies "un-American," and somehow tie that back to Christianity is absurd! People need to step back a yard or two and take a breath. The real question to ask, if you're trying to tie religion to politics is (which if you do in reverse, the church goes berserk!!!!), does the person you want to vote for have the qualities you want to see. Are they honest, do they care about their fellow man (all of them, not just in their religion or church), do they have integrity, will they argue for the good of all rather than a select few?
Never thought I'd say this, but: Go IRS!
Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, and AL Sharpton have no problem expressing their political views from the bully pulpit.
The Taliban (religious group playing government) just ordered the shooting of a 14 year old girl for publicly disagreeing with them.
That's where politics from the pulpit ALWAYS ends up. Santorum, Bachmann, Romney, Ryan, the Spanish Inquisition, They all do the same when and if they can.
So you are saying you have evidence that Santorum, Bachmann, Romney and Ryan are plotting to kill people?
Yes, when it comes to Iran. they've all talked about it night and day yet you haven't heard what they've talk about? Every one of them has pushed for War with Iran. Iran The next one We need to fight? I think you kill people in Wars right?
Wow. Really? You want to compare war to murder? To stopping a dictator from getting nuclear weapons to someone shooting a 14-year-old girl for standing up for women's rights?
They advocate the literal interpretation of the bible. And it demands the death of those who don't follow the rules. They also all believe the USA should be a theocracy
"They advocate the literal interpretation of the bible. And it demands the death of those who don't follow the rules."
You clearly don't know the Bible very well.
"They also all believe the USA should be a theocracy"
That's news to me. When did any of them say that?
I don't see what the problem is. They have free speech, so endorse-away, boys. As long as they aren't forcing church members to vote a certain way, I don't see the problem.
" I don't see what the problem is. They have free speech, so endorse-away, boys. As long as they aren't forcing church members to vote a certain way, I don't see the problem. "
Well, the problem is... that the law, as it stands, I believe states that as a 'non-profit', they are *not* to endorse for or against any candidate.
Is that law saying the pastor can't endorse or the church can't endorse? There is a difference.
And besides, that's a relatively new law ... one that should be repealed.
Other nonprofit tax exempt organizations are active politically. Why single out religious organizations?
Also, those wanting this, as already stated, have no problems with prominent clergy WITH WHOM THEY AGREE making endorsements and/or being politically active.
" Is that law saying the pastor can't endorse or the church can't endorse? There is a difference. "
Yes, however... I don't think the IRS makes a distinction between the pastor and the church per se. If the pastor stands up as a representative leader/employee of the church and overtly and specifically endorses a candidate one way or the other, I believe they are in violation of the *law.*
" And besides, that's a relatively new law "
Relativity to *time* doesn't have any bearing on whether it's a law, or even whether the law should be in place or not. In other words, *time* is not a valid argument here.
" one that should be repealed. "
Well, that's your opinion, and open for debate obviously.
" Other nonprofit tax exempt organizations are active politically. Why single out religious organizations? "
Well, on one level of ana lysis, I would agree with you.
" Also, those wanting this, as already stated, have no problems with prominent clergy WITH WHOM THEY AGREE making endorsements and/or being politically active. "
Your position here is a fallacy as an 'argumentum tu quoque' ... Just because someone else does it, doesn't mean that it's right for you to do it.
And on the other hand, I, personally, do not thinks it's o.k. with any clergy promoting *any* candidate.
Bottom-line... If churches or non-profits want to overtly endorse a candidate or knock another, then take away their 'tax exempt' status, and you guys can say whatever the heck you want... but don't expect federal (Government monies nor tax breaks)... *too.*
What's the issue? Black pastors like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been regularly preaching politics from the pulpit for decades, telling their flocks who and what to vote for...and without comment from the same people who are complaining about preaching from the pulpit today.
Hey, no problem Cochise!
Give up your tax exempt status, and you can hold all the political rallies you want.
Of course this won't happen. The pastors will never agree to run these churches like the business that they are.
If other nonprofit organizations who are tax exempt can be active politically without jeopardizing their tax exempt status, why not churches or other religious organizations?
Because these churches and pastors voluntarily agreed to the conditions their tax exempt status requires.
Churches don't have tax exempt status because they are churches. They have it because they've applied for it, and agreed to the conditions it requires. They don't have to apply for tax exempt status. But when say they will abide by the conditions, and then don't it makes them out to be untruthful organizations. If I were a parishioner of one of these churches, it would bother me to give my money to an organization that didn't stand by its commitments.
Freedom of speech for everybody. Tax all churches.
Only for the new members of this blog:-->>
Putting the final kibosh on religion and therefore activating the "pink slipping" of the topic pastors:
• There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.
• There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.
• There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
• There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
• There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.
• Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.
• Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
A quick Google, Bing or Yahoo search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.
"The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.
Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "
Added details continued below:
Only for the new members:
origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.
New Torah For Modern Minds
“Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).
The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.
Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.
The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."
Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/
From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.
From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:
"Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.
Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.
Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.
The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.
Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.
The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "
"In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.
With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:
An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
"Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
p.168. by Ted Peters:
Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "
So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.
AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD
Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)
"Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."
Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;
Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).
Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does Obama and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)
The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.
Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.
Some added references to "tink-erbells".
"The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:
"TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."
And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:
"In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."
"The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "
"The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "
For added information see the review at:
The tax law has no connection to separation of Church and State. Free speech is something that houses of worship should enjoy. However, grounds for tax exemption for all of these organizations needs to be carefully reviewed to ensure that the organization is truly non-profit and/or truly a religious group. Keep in mind that Hate speech is still illegal even with free speech.
What seems to be very troubling to me is that now, stating the truth about societal problems and politicians who are acting immorally and irresponsibly is now being defined as "hate" speech.
Christians are taught to "hate" evil and "love" the good. That is the proper way "hate" should be done. The fact that some politicians and societal actions are seeing being confronted about their immorality and sin is now "hate" speech shows the depth of their depravity, calling evil good and good evil.
It makes no moral logical sense for pastors to lose their rights to free speech to speak their consciences from the pulpit just because the IRS wants to act as a "muzzle" on communicating truth to people.
It is very clear the the IRS regulations are meant to chill the ability of pastors to lead and guide their people into the truth by telling them what the popular media, and definitely most politicians, don't want to be brought out - which truths typically bring to the light the wrongs of society and individuals with a view towards motivating behavioral changes at both individual and cultural levels.
The laws need to be changed because they are just plain wrong and immoral.
Lots of irony in this situation. When preachers defy the rule to not delve into politics, especially when they urge support of liberals, they give their flock a dilemma, since many of Obama's followers deny any religion. When preachers urge support of conservatives they seem to be against separation of church and state (as do many conservatives), except in the matter of paying taxes.
When is a church a church? It seems that anybody can start a church nowadays and claim tax-exempt status. Many of these churches have become very successful in attracting donations and making money from selling 'products'. Some of the leaders are living outrageously lavish lifestyles. I believe that the tax-exemption should nay apply to that part of their income that goes to truly charitable works and nothing else.
Its really weird to see people who are very much in support of separation of church and state also support taking away churches tax exemption. You do know that the reason churches have tax exemption is because of separation between church and state right? If you take away tax exemption you take away separation between church and state. is that what you want?
And this church is violating that separation by directing their members on how to vote. Time for them to pay income tax.
The church tax exemption does not create the separation of church/state at all; it's merely pandering to the religious with special exemptions which are not deserved.
When the representative of any church begins making political statements then they have lost the right to claim any separation of church and state and they should be taxed just like any other propaganda spewing political committee. The best way to keep your tax break is to keep your mouth shut about political views.
Is Planned Parenthood tax exempt? If so, then by your logic, they should not be active politically or risk losing their status.
False equivalency ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
midwest rail - why is it "false equivalency" to hold nonprofit secular organizations such as planned parenthood to the same standard you want to hold religious organizations to?
If nonprofit secular organizations may be active politically without jeopardizing their tax exempt status then so should churches or other religious organizations.
I suspect your real beef is not with political activity but with what positions they are taking. If this was 1955 and Martin Luther King was preaching from the pulpit the message of civil rights would you then want to remove the tax exempt status of his church? I suspect not. I think the objections of those using separation of church and state argument are directed at those churches with whom they disagree.
False equivalency ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
Adrienne – it is a false equivalency. The other organizations you mention are not constrained by the separation issue. These pastors and churches are. They voluntarily agreed to the restrictions their tax exempt status requires, and it needs to apply equally across the board.
Politics has been preached from Black Churches for decades..Why bring this up now, CNN????
Yes indeed! Churches were active in the abolitionist movement and later the civil rights movement. It seems pastors speaking out about political and social issues are fine as long as you agree with them. So no problem with Martin Luther King preaching civil rights from the pulpit because you agree with him. The issue is really trying to squelch political activity by pastors and churches with whom you disagree. Also, if pastors and churches cannot speak out or jeopardize tax exempt status then why can nonreligious nonprofit organizations do so?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.