Following is an excerpt from a letter written by a concerned citizen. His heart is to encourage pastors to utilize their God-given freedom as citizens of this great nation to stand for what they believe in. For too long many have allowed a false boundary to be erected between pastors and politics, church and state. Let the following words shatter any seemingly invincible walls separating people of faith from entering into positions of power and influence in this nation.
For most of the nation’s history, ministers were very involved in the political process, even preaching “Election Day sermons” prior to the election that spelled out the minister’s position on the issues and candidates. That changed in 1954 when Freshman Senator Lyndon Johnson, who was opposed by a non-profit organization, tacked an amendment on a Senate Bill designed to prohibit non-profit organizations from directly endorsing political candidates. However, even the IRS makes it crystal clear that this prohibition does not keep pastors or other nonprofit leaders from endorsing candidates or speaking to issues in their personal capacity. Any regulation that attempted to silence pastors in their individual capacity would be clear and blatant violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and nothing more than censorship.
As you know, the IRS from time to time issues Revenue Rulings t o clear up any confusion about controversial issues. Revenue Ruling 2007-42 sets forth a number of situations and states whether the conduct in question is allowed or not. One of those situations is hypothetical situation where a minister of a church attends a press conference at a candidate’s campaign headquarters a few weeks before the elections and endorses the candidate. According to the hypothetical, the endorsement is carried on the front page of the newspaper and the minister is identified as the minister of his church in the article. The IRS ruling is that this is NOT a violation of the tax code because the minister did not say at the press conference that he was speaking as the pastor of his church. As another point in the IRS regulations, it states the rule as follows: “For example, a minister of a church can attend an event for a particular candidate and express his support of the candidate as long as he does not state or otherwise imply that he is speaking on behalf of his church.”
At the time our country was founded, and at all times up until the present day, ministers acting as private citizens have not only backed certain candidates, but ministers have even served in political office themselves. John Witherspoon, for example, was an active Presbyterian Minister and an elected Representative from New Jersey who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Ministers are also citizens and, as citizens, have the right and responsibility to engage in the political process.