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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. Friedman

    @Ozyman
    I'm not talking about the church that is in this article. In fact I don't need a pastor to tell me who to vote for. No Law should be broken unless it is against what you believe in. In my case if this ever comes to life that the government says to deny God 1. I will never and anything else that goes against my Belief in God. Jesus did break a law but one that was set up by man. When he was letting his disciples glean from the field and when he was healing on the sabbath it was to teach others around him that the laws that the Jewish priest were setting up were not what God had intended.

    October 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  2. Kris

    I can only hope they come down hard on these churches by removing there tax exempt status

    October 22, 2011 at 3:51 am |
  3. lastofall

    It is contrary to Christ to involve ourselves in this secular world´s matters, for this cause is the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ spoken against among the nations.

    October 22, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Friedman

      I want to be involved with the world. I want people to know that Jesus was not just a stay in the Christian bubble but someone who went out and searched for the hurting and the poor and the lost. Don't keep yourself in a bubble as a Christian give God the glory in all you do. Preach the Good News that Jesus gave to others that there is forgiveness of sins and eternal life in him.

      October 22, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • *frank*

      No, we've all heard the ludicrous story a million times already. You people can shut up now.

      October 22, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  4. RightTurnClyde

    The Christian church has been practically destroyed by its pastors: the pope and his bishops, Jimmy Swaggart, Crystal Cathedral et al, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, The End-Times guy last year, the Kansas Funeral Thugs, Waco, the Bakkers .. an d endless list of self gratifying non-Christians at the head of denominational churches. They know how to bring them in and shear them.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  5. MaybeAgnosticMaybeNot

    The law is the law. Remember Ex-judge Roy Moore and his 10 commandments. Have fun pastor.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  6. jj

    Preachers should keep politics out of their churches. I am extremely offended by political messages in church.

    October 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Me

      I'm offended by church messages in my politics.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • I

      @Me – Testify!

      October 22, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  7. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    And just think, this whole "Alliance Defense Fund" is another brainchild of Karl Rove and his usurpation of Evangelical Christianity for the Conservative wing of the Republican Party. Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan must be spinning in their graves!

    October 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  8. Mirosal

    This gullible moron who preaches mythology to even more gullible people now thinks he can preach political views to the sheep he "leads"?? I hope the IRS sees this story and revokes his status, as his defiance to adhere to THE LAW is now a matter of public record due to this story.

    October 20, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Friedman

      We are not gullible people. It looks like it to you because we are all following the same thing, but why question what you don't truly understand? I know it looks like foolishness to you but didn't you know that God chose the foolish things of this world to confuse the wise.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Gullible's Travels

      Friedman, religious people heve chosen to base their lifes on something that does not even have the slightest shred of evicence supporting its existence. That's gullible.

      Religious people will listen to and believe people like pastors who tell others all albout this thing that cannot be proven in the slightest way to exist. That's gullible.

      Religious people happily reject very strongly evidenced things like evolution and cosmology, and instead accept this totally unevidenced religious explanations. That's gullible. It's also ignorance.

      Religious people reject all other religions as untrue and absurd, yet their religion is somehow true. That's gullible.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Jonas Grumby

      @friedman – did you say that God chose the foolish things of this world to confuse the wise? Are you saying that your god made the world in such a way as to make people not believe in him, and then he punishes them for not believing in him? Why would a god be so childish, perverse and unjust?

      October 21, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • B-b

      Jonas, great response and great question.

      October 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Friedman

      1.did you say that God chose the foolish things of this world to confuse the wise? -Yes

      2. Are you saying that your god made the world in such a way as to make people not believe in him, and then he punishes them for not believing in him? – Yes ( Look what he did to the Pharaoh in Egypt, while Moses was around )

      3. Why would a god be so childish, perverse and unjust? I'm not saying he is childish, perverse and unjust. We are the ones who are unjust to him because look, he saved us while we were yet sinners. How scandalous can you get? How can you save someone who is doing everything wrong against you and still save them...Forgiveness.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  9. O.S. Bird

    OK Pastor, it's not right to break the law unles you really really want to? If you see yourself as an honest man, you'll renounce your church's tax exempt status and pay your taxes. Anything else would not only be hyprocracy, but quite un-Christian. So, what are you going to do?

    October 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  10. Woody

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof......."

    Doesn't giving tax free status to religious organizations, in itself, violate the First Amendment? Why should they be exempt from the taxes that everyone else pays? This sounds as if the Federal Government is sanctioning the belief in an unprovable, invisible being, no matter what name the religious organization goes by. We should start taxing these groups now, whether they have a political agenda or not. They've had a free ride long enough. Besides, lord knows (no pun intended) we need the money.

    October 20, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      Their god needs money. You know, to buy stuff with. Taxes would prevent god from buying stuff. Like a snowboard or a Nintendo Wii.

      October 20, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Friedman

      So what you are saying is that the gifts I give to my church should be taxed? I thought you were able to give a gift to someone w/o it being taxed.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Whatever

      Redefining church income as "gifts" is quite underhanded for people who consider themselves more honest than everyone else. It's like redefining turture as enhanced interrogation: it puts a pretty wrapper over an ugly truth.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Friedman

      Then can I call it my offering?

      October 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  11. Sojourner

    Rev Rick no direspect, but the bible is quite clear that it's God who appoints rulers – Romans 13, Daniel 4. God is sovereign, and I think it's shortsighted to believe that the Gospel would have died if Constantine (evil, brutal, and unGodly) hadn't spread it using violence. At the least, that's a huge assumption. I see that you and Jwas basically agree, but his basic premise still stands. The "two" don't mix, and don;t want to speak for him, but I most certainly am tired of people who take the liberty to declare for me who Christians should vote for in a secular worldly gov't. You can see from the responses here that it certainly isn't us any favors amongst non-believers.

    October 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      LOL, Sojourner!

      First you say, "the bible is quite clear that it's God who appoints rulers – Romans 13, Daniel 4.", then you go on to say that it's clear that, "his basic premise still stands. The "two" don't mix," Well, which is it? If the two don't mix but you believe that God appoints rulers, it's clear you have to jump through theological hoops to justify both positions.

      October 24, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  12. Sojourner

    Jwas, that is an awesome post! If only most of most of today's American Christians would just simply read their bibles, I believe many more would understand your point. You summed it all up in your last sentence. People do not read their bibles, and that I've come to conclude is the crux of the problem. So refreshing to find other people who "get it". I've come across so many during discussion etc on politics that refuse to believe that the kingdom of God is not of this world, and they literally old it up as their Christian duty to spread the gospel of politics. Ask them where that viewpoint can be found in scripture, though and all that you get is blank stares. God Bless you.

    October 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Pepper Ray

      And they really really need to read those instructions in the bible for slaughtering and burning animals, because we know nasty goddy up in the sky will get really angry and send a big storm or disease to kill some humans if we don't.

      Get over your sick Christian supersti-tions already.

      October 20, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Thought

      Pepper Ray-Every minute you breathe is one step closer to your day of reckoning with your Creator God?

      October 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      Thought, are you asking a question? Who is this creator? I've never seen it. It doesn't show it's face when asked. Never a phone call, nothing from this deadbeat creator. I'm certain there is no creator. Or else there'd be at least one shred of evidence. It's had 13.7 billion years to prove itself. So far, nada.

      October 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Friedman

      Pepper, welcome to the New Testament age where there is no longer a need for sacrifice.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Thought

      You said: "Every minute you breathe is one step closer to your day of reckoning with your Creator God?"

      Christians believe in an immaterial soul. They believe this soul is our ident_ity or mind. It is essentially, "who we are".
      The essence of our personalities.

      The soul is "released" when we die. God decides if our soul will go to Heaven or Hell. Evidently, our souls are given a physical body, that we might enjoy eternal bliss or torment.

      There is no evidence for a soul. Our obviously material brains contain all that we are. All that we have experienced, all that we have learned, all of our perceptions. When we die, our brains cease to function. We no longer exist. All that we were, is no more.

      Evidence to support this argument, is that disease, drugs, and injuries affect our ability to think. Our personalities to change. Cerebral palsy occurs when babies' brains are deprived of oxygen. Consider an Alzheimer's victim. The disease destroys the brain. The victim loses the ability to recognize their loved ones. In the last stages, many even lose the ability to swallow.
      If our mind and personality was immaterial and separate from our physical bodies, our thinking and personalities would not be affected.

      Our brains are constantly generating thoughts. Brain chemistry determines our emotions. We can't really tell, that these thoughts and emotions originate in our brains. It's easy for Believers to perceive thoughts and feelings, generated by their brains, as coming from outside themselves. *sigh* Jesus? Is that you? LOL!

      Evolution, with its evidence of transitional fossils, geological column, DNA evidence, vestigial organs etc., is very damning to the biblical Creation Story.

      If god created all the organisms on the planet, then He must have created even the diseases that have caused and are causing so much death and misery for humans and animals. He would have had to fashion the tick and the flea. The mosquito and blood flukes. And worms that bore into a child's eye.

      How could an all good god do such a thing? Why would He spend His time creating gruesome things to cause human suffering? Yet, these horrors exist. And if god didn't create them, who or what did?

      Evolution explains the diversity of the planet's organisms, including the pathogens and the parasites that have caused so much human death and misery.

      If the Creation Story is a fable, then Adam and Eve did not exist.

      If Adam and Eve did not exist, then there was no original sin.

      If there was no original sin, then it cannot be the reason god allows so much suffering in the world. Instead, there are natural causes for earthquakes and floods and other disasters.

      If there was no original sin, then there was no need for a redeemer.

      If there was no redeemer, then Christianity is a based on a false premise.

      "If we cannot believe in the First Adam, why believe in the Last [Christ]?" 1 Corinthians15:45

      If the Creation story is a myth, then there is no reason to believe any of the bible.

      If we evolved, there is no soul –> no afterlife –> no need of a heaven or hell.

      LOL, which is why the Evangelicals fight so hard against evolution.
      The whole Christian religion is built on a house of cards.

      Cheers!

      October 21, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Oh, really...

      @Friedman – with regard to your statement, "Pepper, welcome to the New Testament age where there is no longer a need for sacrifice."...you mean with the exception of a "father" sacrificing his "son", right? Really Friedman...cop a clue!

      October 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  13. THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

    ONLY A MORON WOULD BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE

    October 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

      You said: "ONLY A MORON WOULD BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE"

      The sad part is, that the morons are taking over our country.

      Cheers!

      October 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Friedman

      Then why bother the people who believe in it? We know that it bothers some to here what we have to say. You can always " Turn off the TV" as people have said. If you don't like it don't watch it.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • MarkinFL

      If you did not keep trying to inject the bible into other people's lives, then those other people would leave you to whatever superst.itious life you wish to lead.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Friedman

      I know I can stop speaking about the Redemption we all have in Christ, but then as Christ said " If they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out." This is after Jesus was told to rebuke his disciples.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Friedman

      Because I don't want you idiots to take over the country.

      Cheers!

      October 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Friedman

      "I know I can stop speaking about the Redemption we all have in Christ, but then as Christ said " If they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out." This is after Jesus was told to rebuke his disciples."

      There is no real evidence that Jesus ever existed. *smile* I think the rocks will be still. LOL

      Cheers!

      October 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Friedman

      I know there might not be a lot of evidence but look, the crowd was looking to Jesus to do many miracle and then he finally said in
      Luke 11:28-30 (New International Version) He talks about the wicked generation who ask for signs.. How much evidence do you need to know that Jesus existed until you return to God and believe in him as your Lord and Savior.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  14. WiseGeorge

    It's disgusting and a bad sign for our country that supersti-tion, including religion, has any influence on an election.

    October 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • cbw

      professing themselves to be wise they became as fools!

      October 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • WiseGeorge

      cbw, p!ss off, ass-hole.

      October 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • yep

      fools need empty fillers!

      October 20, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Friedman

      If you are a candidate you should have at least some moral fiber in your body. And by the worlds morals that is something I would not put my standards in. Rather put my moral standers with God who at least doesn't change like a shadow.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Friedman

      Your Christian god is no more likely to exist than Santa Claus. Or do you have evidence?

      Cheers!

      October 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Friedman

      Please scroll up to see another comment I made in another question i was asked.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Ozymandias71

      Friedman, it's funny that you're talking about 'moral fiber' – yet these churches are BREAKING THE LAW. I guess that's all right as long as it's for Jesus, right?

      October 22, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  15. I'm The Best!

    Before I just thought religion was du.mb. After reading this, I ha.te religion and all pastors or whatever are associated with it.

    All they're doing is intentionally breaking the law and getting pis.sed when someone does something about it. They even have a watchdog as.sociation that let's them know when the feds aren't looking.

    Religion is the worst thing to ever happen to the human race.

    October 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Central Scrutinzer

      WHOOPDEE DOO

      October 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Amen! I think it is likely that the Evangelicals / Religious Right will achieve their Christian Theocracy.

      I really love this country. I don't want to see it ruled by religious fanatics and fools.

      Cheers!

      October 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Friedman

      First of all. Religion is not dumb.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Friedman

      The people who believe in religion are dumb. Jesus was dumb...

      Cheers!

      October 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Friedman

      We are not dumb we are people who truly believe that God created everything and we sinned and then he sent his son to die on the cross for us so that we didn't have to face eternal separation and that when we die we will live with him in heaven and those who do not will be sent to hell. I love that it is so plain and simple to understand this when even a " Dumb " person could. But I want to restate myself we are not dumb people.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  16. Reality

    A prayer for the good pastor:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    October 20, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Friedman

      I feel your statement is wrong.

      October 20, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Reality

      How is said prayer wrong????

      October 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Kyle

      No. The statement is correct.

      October 20, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Friedman

      the "prayer" you are writing is great for agnostics but not a Christian.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Reality

      But what are the errors of the updated Apostles' Creed?

      October 21, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Friedman

      I didn't say there were errors. It just doesn't work for Christians who believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and his Word.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Reality

      There are a lot of things that no longer work for the "believers":

      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      “New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. 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 docu-ment. “

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      3., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      5. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

      The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

      Current crises:

      The caste system and cow worship/reverence.

      6. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."

      "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

      Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

      Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

      Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!

      October 22, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Friedman

      " New Torah For Modern Minds "
      1. Of course the Jewish people will tell you that everything in the Bible never occurred because 1. They didn't belive that Jesus was Lord and 2. If they don't even believe that things from the Old Testament or " Torah " are true then how can they call them selves Jews? The Torah is what they hold fast to and they are still waiting for their " Messiah ".
      This also goes along with the archeological digs, still why wouldn't they try and disprove Jesus or other events of the bible they were closing themselves off to the evidence.
      Also Jews are telling you this because they are still waiting for their messiah.
      3. " Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant,carpenter,simple preacher man " of course they want people to belive this because they don't want others to know that Jesus is the true Messiah and so they try and falsify it just like they did when he was around.
      3. The base on the " Contemporary NT scholars " There are also scholars who believe the opposite there are two sides to that coin always. And to take one in mind Rob Bell who believes there is "no hell" So you will get many different answers from many different scholars. To scholars like Alan Scholes who taught one of my classes and believes that the bible is the inerrant word of God.

      4. With the " 30% " you are saying men who wrote the New Testament and then gave their lives for it were just plagiarizing I doubt it.

      5. The Catholic theologians did not split God into 3. God said that in his own word. In the beginning of creation it was " Let Us make them in our image" so first of all that shows that there was a multiple in creating. Then Jesus on earth talks about the " one who is to come after me" He was referring to the Holy Spirit. So it was not the Catholic theologians who " divided god" in to 3 persons

      . There are also ministers of all different races its a huge blessing to go to places like Latvia, Dominican Republic and Thailand to see others preach in their own language. I also listen to a pastor who is African-american. I've met a friend of my fathers who is Native American who preaches the Gospel to the tribes. His Indian name is Curly Bear hes in google search i bet. I love all races that God has given this world. Like God i would love to see them all come to know him personally.

      About the Luther Calvin and Joe Smith claim its the same as i wrote about peter luke and paul.

      The Current problems situation:
      5 To the priest situation. That part i truly feel bad for one the people who were hurt and two the priest who hurt the men. We are not perfect and people struggle with sin. To the one preaching the health and wealth gospel, it was never ment to be like that God is not a lets rub the bottle and get our wish and then scream and yell that we have faith and it will come true. The Gospel is all about Jesus coming down to earth to atone for our sins and to give us eternal life.

      mohammed was just a man, simple as that he was not after Jesus he was only a man after power. So islam has nothing to do with the way Christianity is.

      Same with budda he was just a man,

      In my conclusion, why I believe that Jesus is Lord. I know the facts that I understand there are things beond my understanding that i may never know but always want to find out and two that man alone can not survive on his own and thus need a Lord and Savior like Christ Jesus.

      I don't know how much this helps but I hope it a least gives some in-site to what I believe in and that someday all will come to know the LORD God.

      October 22, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Reality

      The New Torah for Modern Minds pertains only to the old te-stament as noted in the comments.

      There is only one place in the NT that suggests Jesus could read i.e. Luke 4:16. This pas-sage is not attested to in any other NT passage or in any other related docu-ment making it a later addition or poor translation as per most NT scholars' analyses.

      See also Professor Crossan and Professor Reed's book, Excavating Jesus, p. 30.

      See also Professor Bruce Chilton's commentary in his book, Rabbi Jesus, An Intimate Biography, pp 99-101- An excerpt:

      "What Luke misses is that Jesus stood in the synagogue as an illiterate ma-mzer in his claim to be the Lord's anointed".

      It is very unfortunate that Jesus was illiterate for it resulted in many gospels and epistles being written years after his death by non-witnesses. This resulted in significant differences in said gospels and epistles and with many embellishments to raise Jesus to the level of a deity to compete with the Roman gods and emperors. See Raymond Brown's 878 page book, An Introduction to the New Testament, (Luke 4:16 note on p. 237) for an exhaustive review of the true writers of the gospels and epistles.

      Then there is this:

      “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

      The Situation Today
      Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

      It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspa-per every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

      October 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  17. Rev. Rick

    I can see both sides of this argument. I would hesitate to go after a pastor for speaking his mind in the pulpit. However, I am a former conservative Christian, and what baffles me is that ALL of the GOP candidates seem like extremely poor examples of what Jesus Christ stood for, which is why I would be susp-icious of a pastor that recommended ANY of them. God is neither a democrat nor a republican, and I suspect even He would have a difficult time picking ANY of them to represent Him in any political office.

    October 20, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • jwas1914

      Hello Rev. Rick I read your cooment. Please take note of the following:

      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 9:25 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ jwas1914 – I'm not really sure what the point of your rambling really was, unless it was to say politics and religion don't mix very well. Something I had already expressed.

      However, I would also like to point out that if it had not been for the emperor Constantine, who cleverly used his political power and position to its benefit, Christianity might never have survived. The history of Christianity is tainted with a mix of both religious and political intrigue, and the very development of the Bible (which books to include and which were declared heresy) had a lot to do with which early church officials of the period had the political power to track down, burn and destroy any scripture that did not meet its orthodoxy. The truth is – not much has changed. Politicians will continue to bend, twist, use (and abuse) religion to meet its own goals and agenda.

      October 20, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      The furthest thing from christ is a christian

      October 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Rev. Rick

      You said: "I can see both sides of this argument. I would hesitate to go after a pastor for speaking his mind in the pulpit."

      We are a nation of laws. Exemption Requirements – Section 501(c)(3) Organizations:

      ... [An organization] may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

      If an organization feels it is their duty to their god to violate this law, then have the honesty to give up their tax exempt status. Funny how god never tells them to do that. God just tells them to violate the laws of the land.

      This is just a further grab for the Christian Theocracy they crave. POWER, is what is wanted.

      4 of the GOP candidates say god has told them to run. If an almighty god tells you to run, how can you lose? Will the 3 who do not win the nomination, be branded liars? Will god be branded a practical joker?

      The Evangelicals want by political means, what Jesus has never given them by returning. But, it should be remembered, that it won't really be Jesus who is ruling. It will be the Christian Right. It will be men who don't appear to listen much to the words of Jesus.

      The Republicans use the First Ep_istle of Paul to the Thessalonians, to justify their cutting programs for the p_oor and elderly. They ignore Christ's advice to the rich. The Republicans believe they deserve the wealth that they have. Maybe they do. Maybe god is blessing them. So, if the rich follow the words of Jesus, won't god bless the rich all the more?

      So, where are the voices of the other Christians? Why don't they speak out against the Religious Right? Have all Christians come to the conclusion that Jesus didn't really mean what He said? Then why be Christians? Are the other Christians afraid of the Evangelicals? Is their wrath like unto the wrath of god?

      Who will decide who is Christian enough in this new Theocracy...certainly not Jesus. Will the Mormons pass? What about the Jehovah Witnesses? There are over 1,000 different denominations of Christianity in North America. Will they be excluded from the "Jesus On Earth Kingdom? Cast out with the Scientologists and atheists?

      Will all the Muslim parents need to explain to their children how their god is subservient to the one true Christian god?

      Where are the real Christians. Rev. Rick? Are all of you intent on world domination? Are none of you content to be humble servants of Christ?

      None of you care about the environment? The rising temperatures? The loss of species that your god supposedly created? Are you so sure that Jesus will be back in time to heal the earth, before it becomes uninhabitable?

      "Blessed are the peacemakers." But many Christian Zionists want only for Israel to regain the land god gave them and rebuild the temple. No peace is desired by them. They want Israel's enemies destroyed.

      Evangelicals make me want to puke Rev. Rick. Where are the true Christians?

      Cheers!

      However, I am a former conservative Christian, and what baffles me is that ALL of the GOP candidates seem like extremely poor examples of what Jesus Christ stood for, which is why I would be susp-icious of a pastor that recommended ANY of them. God is neither a democrat nor a republican, and I suspect even He would have a difficult time picking ANY of them to represent Him in any political office.

      October 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  18. John Richardson

    Garlow and his ilk are the Criswell's of today.

    October 20, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  19. Snivelling Christian

    I am glad that people like Pastor Garlow explain it to people like me. You see, we Christians are totally unable to think for ourselves and need to be told what to think and what to do. We are so totally unable to think that we readily accept the most absurd tales, ones that do not have the slightest bit of evidence to support them. Heck, we believe stuff that is so silly that non-Christians laugh at it.

    Tell me what to think, Pastor Garlow! I can't do it on my own!

    October 20, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  20. Kebos

    Pastors should keep their noses out of politics and use their time that they have been given to influence people with their ridiculous notions of the big guy in the sky. Unless of course they feel that message is getting a little old and so now want to talk about other things......like politics.

    Oh, I see.

    October 20, 2011 at 6:10 am |
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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.