President Scolds Supreme Court for Opinion that Helps Churches


In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama took the Supreme Court to task for its recent ruling allowing corporations to speak out about candidates for election.  What he didn’t say was that the company the Court ruled for in the case was a small to mid-size non-profit.

Citizens United sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC) because it prohibited corporations from endorsing or opposing candidates for office within 90 days prior to an election.  The non-profit group filed the lawsuit because it was prohibited from offering Hillary: The Movie as a pay-per-view option on cable networks.  The Supreme said the FEC rules violate the free speech rights of corporations and are unconstitutional:  “By suppressing the speech of manifold corporations, both for-profit and nonprofit, the Government prevents their voices and viewpoints from reaching the public and advising voters on which persons or entities are hostile to their interests.”  This is exactly what the IRS has been doing to pastors since 1954 with the Johnson Amendment.  That amendment prohibits non-profit charitable organizations – including churches – from encouraging their members to vote for or against a candidate based on church teaching.  ADF has organized a Pulpit Initiative for the past two years in an effort to bring attention to this unconstitutional law, and challenge it in court.

So far, the IRS has not attempted to enforce the rule against any of the 85 pastors that have participated.  But if they do, Citizens United gives Churches a great weapon.  It will be very difficult for the IRS to argue that corporations have a free speech right to endorse or oppose candidates, but churches don’t.


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