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Pastors hope for a louder, unrestricted voice in 2012 election
Jim Garlow is the senior pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California.
October 19th, 2011
04:51 PM ET

Pastors hope for a louder, unrestricted voice in 2012 election

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - When Pastor Jim Garlow took to the pulpit September 28, he was thinking two things.

He first thought that the sermon he was about to give, a sermon in which he was going to endorse a handful of 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls, might earn him a letter from the IRS, possibly even a visit from an agent. By endorsing candidates, Garlow was about to violate the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt churches from engaging in political activity.

But according to Garlow, the senior pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California, the conviction that "our nation, economically and morally, is in such a condition that America as we have known it for its 200-plus years is on the verge of disappearing" was enough of an impetus to break the rules.

Garlow's sermon was part of a wider effort by the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal organization that since 2008 has hosted Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a day when they encourage and promise to protect pastors who willfully violate the Johnson Amendment and endorse from the pulpit.

The movement is growing. While it started with 33 churches in 2008, 539 churches participated in 2011.

"We basically see Pulpit Freedom Sunday as a means of protecting a pastor's right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing government censorship in any way," said Erik Stanley, ADF's senior legal counsel and organizer of Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

And so far, the effort has received little to no response from the IRS. Though the agency did not respond to CNN's request for specific numbers, according to Stanley, the majority of the messages go unnoticed and only a handful of pastors receive letters.

This trend of non-enforcement has emboldened pastors and the ADF. When Garlow weighed his decision to participate, he said he knew the IRS was not challenging the churches, and that contributed to his willingness to speak.

This current loophole of non-enforcement, said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, means Americans can expect a huge jump in endorsements from the pulpit in the 2012 election.

"When the Alliance Defense Fund says to churches that the IRS aren't investigating them right now, that gives the churches the sense we can get away with anything," said Lynn, who has been director of Americans United for 20 years.

As for the reason for the loophole, it depends on what side you ask. Stanley and the ADF contend that the reason officials aren't investigating is because they don't want to be challenged in court and the IRS may be disorganized.

Lynn and Americans United contend that a simple bureaucratic decision as to what level of IRS official can initiate an investigation led to the current loophole. Lynn said that Obama administration has been unwilling to change the regulation.

"If it becomes a permanent loophole, this would create a giant loophole for friendly pastors to endorse them and take out ads," Lynn said.

According to Naomi Riley, a contributor to Philanthropy Daily, a publication that covers nonprofits like churches, the issue ebbs and flows around elections.

"I think the issue heats up as it gets closer to elections," Riley said. "Each side thinks that when another administration is in power they are looking more in the churches than they should be, but obviously Republicans are more worried about Democrats looking to enforce this rule."

The current vagueness in policy is new; in the past, the IRS has investigated churches that they thought violated the Johnson Amendment.

Four days before the presidential election in 1992, the Landmark Church in Binghamton, New York, ran a full-page ad in USA Today that said, "Christians Beware," and was followed by a list of 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 in 1995 the church lost its tax-exempt status.

Landmark Church Pastor Dan Little took the IRS to court, arguing that the agency was violating the church's First Amendment rights and that the agency was only able to revoke the tax-exempt status of a "religious organization," not an actual church.

Both a federal judge and an appeals court rejected both arguments.

In Lynn's opinion, this ruling is evidence that if the IRS enforced the Johnson Amendment, it would be able to revoke church's tax-exempt status.

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst, is not so sure that there would be a similar result if the IRS initiated another case.

"The court is much more hostile to anything that could be interpreted as a restriction on speech and the political realm," Toobin said. "Even if it is the withholding of a subsidy, the Supreme Court is much more favorably inclined towards religious groups than it has been in the recent past."

But Toobin acknowledged that without IRS enforcement action, there is no "live controversy" to rule on. Though the numbers taking part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday may continue to grow, unless the IRS goes after a church, none of the churches will have legal standing to bring a lawsuit.

"These are values in conflict," Toobin said. "The constitution mandates a degree of separation from church and state. But it also mandates freedom of speech, and this is an example of how society, in the courts, has to sort out apparent conflicts between those ideas."

According to Wayne B. Giampietro, the general counsel of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, there is a fine line between a preacher talking as an individual and a preacher speaking for the church.

"It is one thing for a preacher to be talking just as an individual," Giampietro said. "He has an absolute right to endorse anyone they want, but once they start saying this comes from the church, that is when you run into problems."

This issue arose at last month's Values Voter Summit. Americans United sent a letter to the IRS after Pastor Robert Jeffress, the same pastor in the news recently for calling Mormonism "a cult," endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry in his speech and posted that speech on his church's website. Americans United contended that when Jeffress posted the video to the website, it amounted to an endorsement from the church, not just the pastor.

Giampietro said he can't predict how the court would go, but he said the IRS has a right to withhold tax exemption from any group, and because there is no right to tax exemption, taking a church's tax exemption away is not violating their First Amendment rights.

Back in La Mesa, Pastor Garlow said he plans to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday next year.

According to Stanley at the Alliance Defense Fund, he will be far from alone. Because of the popularity of the event, organizers are now making it a weekend-long protest so that churches can participate on Saturday and Sunday. Stanley said he expects the number of participating churches to go up again.

Garlow's sermon was not specific. "I didn't endorse a singular candidate. I said here are the ones that violate scripture and here are the ones who are in the scope of scripture."

After the sermon was over, Garlow said people cheered and asked him why he didn't speak out like this more often. The members of his congregation "were enormously hungry for me to speak out on these issues," Garlow said.

But even though the issues Garlow spoke about - gay marriage and abortion - were important to him, he said Pulpit Freedom Sunday represents larger feelings in America.

"The bigger picture in all of this is there is a groundswell that is taking place," Garlow said. "... Pastors and people of faith are saying that is it, that is enough, we must speak out."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Politics

soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. JesusisLord

    To all of you, that are non-believers. Then you all would never understand people of faith. First of all. In the bible it tells believers to part take in politics ( people who are in higher authority). If the 1st amendment states that we have freedom of speech, then the churches should be free to talk about the things of this world that contradicts what the Word of God says. To: Bearer of Bad News, The bible talks about people just like you. That is why I am a believer. Its word is true. If you dont attend a religious organization and dont believe that God does exist, then why waste your time commenting on these events. (thank you)

    People have to understand that whether you are a christian, politic, or whatever, Money can sometimes change people. It does, so there are problems in politics, that is why you pray for them. NO one is perfect. Not even the ones who pray. We all got problems and the Word of God are standards thats required by followers, to become better, if you choose to. So, people need to stop beating up on the churches, just some pastors feel the need to speak about politics. This world is all about money. The members of the church should be able to make their own decision whether or not they want to vote for a certain individual. I dont agree with a pastor endorsing a politician, but i do agree with going on what the word of God states about people who are put in higher authority.
    There are scripts that politicians have to go by. So, all their goals are to get elected. Why? some of us would never know the true answer. so, as an individual, the only thing you can do is conduct your own research and pray, and take a vote.

    October 20, 2011 at 2:41 am |
    • tallulah13

      The problem is that when a pastor tells his congregation to vote for certain people, he is invalidating the tax free status of his church. This is America, where our freedom to worship or not worship as we wish is protected by the separation of church and state. This is the best way to prevent a single religion from becoming a dictatorial force in our country. I hope that all Americans who love freedom will renounce these efforts to destroy the equality that is the foundation of this nation.

      October 20, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • Kate65

      Actually, Scripture quotes Jesus as "render unto Cesar that which is Cesar's, and unto God that which is God's". Try to get it right. And I'm sorry, but "pastors" had no business telling anyone how to vote....period. "How would Jesus vote?" is the oft-heard screech of fundamentalist on the pulpit. What ever happened to Jesus's "whatever you do to my people, you have done to me"?

      October 20, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • jwas1914

      God and Politics
      For many years people have associated God with politics. Though our forefathers believed in God, is it practical to associate God with politics? What can we learn from our past history? Let's take a look at what the Bible teaches in respect to this. There was a time when Jesus awed a crowd of thousands by performing powerful signs and by sharing teachings of God. Well, after seeing Jesus’ miracles and his skillful leadership in managing the crowds and caring for their needs, the people conclude that Jesus would be a perfect king. (John 6:14) “Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone,” says John 6:15. Jesus’ neutrality regarding the politics of this world was well-grounded in Scriptural principles. Consider just two.
      1. “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) This is how the Bible sums up the history of human rule and Jesus wanted no part of it.
      2. “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Do you find that statement startling? Many do. They think of sincere people who get involved in government because they want to make the world a better, safer place. Try as they might, though, even the most sincere rulers cannot overcome the influence of the one whom Jesus called “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30) That is why Jesus said to one worldly politician: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36) Jesus was the prospective King of God’s heavenly government. Had Jesus mixed in politics, he would have sacrificed his loyalty to his Father’s government.
      The book On the Road to Civilization notes: “Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. . . . Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office.” Since we have learned that God and politics have nothing in common; why is it that politicians use him as a stepping tool to win the confidence of the people? It is why we must read our Bible daily to take in knowledge of Jehovah God's purpose, not man.

      October 20, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      The stories in the bible aren't all original. The ideas are stolen from other dead religions. Religion needs to stay our of politics, period.

      October 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Ozymandias71

      Typical that you 'Christians' willfully ignore the simple fact that these churches are BREAKING THE LAW. It's all right if it's for Jesus, right?

      October 22, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  2. Dr.K.

    Why is using God to promote a political agenda not considered taking the Lord's name in vain?

    October 20, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  3. Tellurian

    IIf the Pastor were a TRUE CHRISTIAN he would be promoting the Communist candidates, as the biblical Jesus promoted a communalist lifestyle for his followers.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Jesus Marx

      And radical redistribution of wealth: "Sell your possessions, and give to the needy." Which is the same as "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

      October 20, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  4. Gadflie

    These dishonorable preachers agreed to not endorse candidates when they accepted tax exempt status. If they want to legally endorse, all they have to do is drop their exemption.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  5. Ben

    FREEDOM OF SPEECH. The government gets to involved.

    October 19, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Jaromillo

      Thank you for your thoughtful and scholarly post.

      October 19, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      And exactly who's free speech is being limited? The pastor can say whatever he wants. No one is stopping him. If he campaigns for a candidate from the pulpit, his taxes aren't affect – but his church's are. I don't remember the first amendment saying anything about the tax status or civil rights of a church.

      October 20, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  6. Bearer Of Bad News

    I would be thankful for these christian leaders if they did something other than pray or complain about the political disrepair of this country. Instead of wasting all of their time infecting politics with the disease of antique beliefs, perhaps they could try to do something productive. I don't know, maybe get jobs and work for a living? There is no god to provide. They're living off of the paychecks of fellow believers.

    October 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • *frank*

      The priest shares 99.9% of its DNA with the common tapeworm.

      October 19, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      This explains a lot.

      October 19, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • G-D

      Bearer Of Bad News wrote on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm, stating, "I would be thankful for these christian leaders if they did something other than pray or complain about the political disrepair of this country. Instead of wasting all of their time infecting politics with the disease of antique beliefs, perhaps they could try to do something productive. I don't know, maybe get jobs and work for a living? There is no god to provide. They're living off of the paychecks of fellow believers."

      Regarding 'political disrepair', are you saying that 'Christian Leaders' are 'infecting politics' via 'antique beliefs'? Funny thing, freedom of speech is. I cannot see just how 'Christian Leaders' are actually 'infecting politics'. Pehaps you can enlighten me Bearer Of Bad News. I was under the assumptions that 'money trails' and 'big business practices' were the 'infecting' sources of the ills of bad politcal agendas. I could be wrong. Please Bearer Of Bad News tell me I am.

      L0vE
      god by God in GOD

      October 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      This is a simple answer.

      When politicians make decisions based on their religious belief systems, they are enforcing rules, regulations, laws, etc that require all of us to submit to. These christian leaders rouse their followers with talk of the "end times" which is a 100% myth. These followers then vote for some of the most outlandish religious politicians available. Putting these people into a position of power is a terrible mistake. We do not need laws based on the thought processes of people who worship an imaginary being. We need educated politicians with real life experience. Sitting in church every Sunday does not count toward anything productive.

      October 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      Also, you believe that freedom of speech is a problem. You are misinformed. Thanks to centuries of religious oppression, freedom of speech was not allowed. It would appear that you are right in line with the catholics of Medieval times that you believe free speech is a problem.

      October 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • jwas1914

      God and Politics
      For many years people have associated God with politics. Though our forefathers believed in God, is it practical to associate God with politics? What can we learn from our past history? Let's take a look at what the Bible teaches in respect to this. There was a time when Jesus awed a crowd of thousands by performing powerful signs and by sharing teachings of God. Well, after seeing Jesus’ miracles and his skillful leadership in managing the crowds and caring for their needs, the people conclude that Jesus would be a perfect king. (John 6:14) “Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone,” says John 6:15. Jesus’ neutrality regarding the politics of this world was well-grounded in Scriptural principles. Consider just two.

      1. “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) This is how the Bible sums up the history of human rule and Jesus wanted no part of it.

      2. “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Do you find that statement startling? Many do. They think of sincere people who get involved in government because they want to make the world a better, safer place. Try as they might, though, even the most sincere rulers cannot overcome the influence of the one whom Jesus called “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30) That is why Jesus said to one worldly politician: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36) Jesus was the prospective King of God’s heavenly government. Had Jesus mixed in politics, he would have sacrificed his loyalty to his Father’s government.

      The book On the Road to Civilization notes: “Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. . . . Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office.” Since we have learned that God and politics have nothing in common; why is it that politicians use him as a stepping tool to win the confidence of the people? It is why we must read our Bible daily to take in knowledge of Jehovah God's purpose, not man.

      October 20, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      The bible is false.

      October 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  7. David Johnson

    The IRS won't do a thing. The Christian Right has the nation in its grasp.

    I have never been so disgusted in my life.

    October 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • G-D

      @ David Johnson,,,

      And just 'who' are the 'Christian Right'? Or Left or even Centrist? Such 'labelling' demoralizes and denunciates. 🙁

      L0vE
      god by God in GOD

      October 19, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  8. Mr Chihuahua

    Tax them so much they have to close their churches and get a real job lol!

    October 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • G-D

      Yo quierro Taco Bell!!!! 🙂

      L0vE
      god by God in GOD

      October 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  9. G-D

    As a lowly god are we not built by the Gods who dwell inside us? And due one's living within the Celestial domain of outer Heaven which is G-D's embodiment, are we not beings of mainly religious dependence in that the majorities of passed generations were enlightened with religions and still are and maybe ever will?

    As a lower form in godliness and a Christian 'theocrat', I see nothing wrong in taxing all religious denominations in order for them (pastors) to outrightly say who are their perceived and most viable candidates to vote into office. Yes, tax them and finally let them have a say/voice in political diplomacy.

    L0vE
    god by God in GOD

    October 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  10. Reality

    For the pastor's next sermon:

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?: a move to true morality!!!

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

    One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!i.e. No Easter, no Christianity.

    The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and non-profits since there is there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

    October 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  11. Pangs for the Nation

    "our nation, economically and morally, is in such a condition that America as we have known it for its 200-plus years is on the verge of disappearing"

    very aptly worded Mr Garlow, we understand and PRAY!!!!!!!!!

    October 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Electric Larry Rides Again!

      You understand that madness? Tell us: why do you hate America so much? The standard of living even in this recession is better than Americans enjoyed 50 years ago! This a great country that in many ways is greater than ever. The people who say it is falling apart – and people have been saying that since the country began – always always ALWAYS have a hidden agenda of replacing our great constitutional republic with something more oppressive. Hitler and Stalin and other dictators all loved to make speeches about the decay of America and the West.

      Don't be so unAmerican! Stop piming your self-serving bullshit that this great nation is about to vanish.

      October 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Stupor?

      Hey Electric whateva-How much have you really bothered to study and understand the issues that we are facing today? You truly do not care about our nation and your pretense is just disgusting.

      October 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Anyone who thinks this country is facing worse crises than those faced during, just for example, the War of 1812 (Washington DC actually in danger of falling to the British), the Civil War, Reconstruction, the First and Second World Wars, the Great Depression or the many issues that came to a head in the 196os and early 1970s (Civil Rights, the Viet Nam War, Watergate) is a complete and total moron.

      October 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Kevin

      We do not forget God's providence and protection in the past.We will continue as 'One Nation under God'

      October 19, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Kevin So it was god who led the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong to victory over the Americans in the Vietnamese War? Or is divine triumphalism at work only when "we" win?

      October 19, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      We are one nation. But definitely not under god. This "god" would have to exist first. Even if it did, I guarantee it hasn't accomplished the paperwork required for a student VISA. I say student because based on these outdated mythological religious texts people believe in, this god has a LOT to learn.

      October 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Kevin

      There is NO argument with the Psalm 14:1 category.

      Hey PftN-We do Pray for our Nation.

      October 19, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      Why do you pray when there is no one listening to your prayers?

      October 19, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • tallulah13

      "our nation, economically and morally, is in such a condition that America as we have known it for its 200-plus years is on the verge of disappearing"

      This is correct. Religious fanatics are trying to destroy the secular foundation of this country, even as our politicians help the wealthiest citizens become wealthier on the backs of the middle class and the poor. They are trying create here what Europe has already outgrown: A feudalistic society of peasants, princes and priests. It's flat out treason.

      October 20, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Roc

      tallu-the ɡɒbəldɪˌɡuːk indeed!

      October 20, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  12. *frank*

    When I want to learn about politics and government I don't read reputable journals or anything, I just ask my local village wizard...

    October 19, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  13. Freethinksman

    "We basically see Pulpit Freedom Sunday as a means of protecting a pastor's right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing government censorship in any way,"

    There is no censorship. There is only the possibility of being taxed on income, the way ordinary businesses are. I'm tired of treating religions as though they are something special. Why is religious magic exempt while Penn and Teller pay taxes?

    October 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Electric Larry Rides Again!

      Oh now, let him have his fun. Those Christians are just not happy unless they can scream "persecution" and play the victim. Never mind the fact that they are about as oppressed and persecuted as rich white people.

      It's part of their delusion. Just like the part where they think they are more moral than secular people, despite all the studies that show they are actually worse. Their core illusion is protected by a web of illusions.

      October 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  14. Jesus Akhbar!

    So this moron is pushing Christian Sharia. Just another freak pushing for a totalitarian theocracy based on something he cannot even begin to prove exists.

    October 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  15. GSA

    @BoldGeorge – if the best candidate was not a Christian but some other religion or an Atheist do you think that most pastors would still preach to elect this person?
    Great point Jay, taking away the tax exempt status is a great idea.

    October 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      I did state in my previous comment that I don't agree much with Pastors who endorse a specific name or who try to push the congregants to vote for a specific candidate. I'm not for manipulation of any kind. Preaching on the moral-family-spiritual-economical-country's future standards a presidential candidate should have is what I go for.

      October 20, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  16. BRC

    I actually recommend letting anyone endorse anything, you just tax it 100%. If a church or a business wants to endorse a specific candidate, no problem go right ahead; but for every dollar spend on advertisements or given as campaign contributions, a dollar will be paid to the current government. Contributions from private citizens (and no they may not funnel money from corporations/churches) are still tax free.

    The US government desperately needs money right now, so lets open up a way to get lots of it, that doesn't effect the average citizen at all. More money is just going to allow candidates to run more adds, and lets be honest, if the number of adds you see is what influences a persons vote, they weren't going to be contributing much during the election anyway. Feels like a win-win to me.

    October 19, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  17. BoldGeorge

    As a Christian, I might not agree much on Pastors endorsing a specific name, but I do agree with pastors preaching on what the moral standards, family values, God-fearing status, economic plan and their view of our country's future a Presidential Hopeful should have. This way, the church's congregants would be able to make their own decision based on their own christian faith and belief.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Bible Bob

      Darn right, BoldGeorge. Christians are supposed to follow the word. They are supposed to obey. If Jesus wanted them thinking for themselves, be wouldn't have made Christianity.

      I do have to say that I don't like the tax exempt thing anyway. It's socialism, and God hates socialism. And gays. And people who don't agree with them. And phoney Christians who don't obey. They are all going to burn in the lake of fire.

      And don't forget, Jesus loves you!

      October 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  18. JAy.

    As a devout Christian and an American, I have no problem with the IRS pulling tax-exempt status from churches who endorse candidates. If the government says it is a rule, it is so.

    And if pastors still want to talk politics, they have two options. One is to speak in "educational" tones. Bring up issues which may be important to the congregation, discuss what Scripture says, and talk about candidate positions, but don't speak directly of support for one candidate or another. OThe other is to endorse a candidate and risk your tax-exempt status.

    It is not a violation of free speech (no one is saying you can't talk all you want), but simply a limitation on tax exemptions.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Ed

      Have to agree with you Jay

      October 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • chad

      Well said!

      October 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • John Richardson

      You got it right, Jay! (And one wonders how stupid some pastors assume their congregants are. Do the pastors really assume these people are so incapable of researching who supports what that they need a list of names to vote for?)

      October 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • *frank*

      Probably. And sadly, they'd be correct.

      October 19, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      John! You're talking about people who believe in childish imaginary beings. Figuring out who to vote for is much more difficult. Unfortunately, they are listening to the same charlatans for both decisions so are not likely to get good advice.

      October 19, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Mortimer Bartesque

      Why do they have so little respect for their church members, that they think they have to tell them how to vote ? The patronizing a$$ holes should just shut up, and let people think for themselves. It's a POWER trip. Why do evangelicals ONLY feel comfortable if others agree with their nonsense ? Why do they think their opinions are more valid and important than anyone else's ?

      October 19, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  19. bobmma

    If you want to talk politics from the pulpit, it should cost you your tax exempt status.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      This is definitely reasonable.

      October 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  20. hippypoet

    no pastors sry... infact no preachers of any kind. to go one step further.... no religious people in politics at all as a safe guard!

    October 19, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
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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.