Author Archive

Don’t be Intimidated by the Playground Bully

March 30, 2010

Many of us have been there – playing on the school playground when suddenly you find yourself in the cross-hairs of the school bully.  There you are minding your own business when the bully comes up to you and perhaps demands your lunch money or just wants to pick on you to satisfy their own cruelty.  Maybe you stood there with sweaty palms and a racing heart and gave in.  Or maybe you chose to fight back.  But the passage of time gives us a perspective that perhaps many of us lacked in those playground situations.  As we get older and more experienced in life we realized that the bully was really nothing more than a weakling who made up for his own weakness by being loud and obnoxious.  Perhaps that reality dawned on you if you refused to be pushed around by the bully and stood up to him.

Whatever the case, playground bullies still exist today, and one of the organizations that gets a kick out of trying to bully churches is Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  ADF was recently the subject of an AU blog post full of bellicose bullying.  AU basically yells at anyone who listens to them, that ADF’s Pulpit Initiative is a failure and that we should just give up. 

Basically, AU’s blog post boils down to threats and intimidation by the “playground bully” of churches.  And bullying churches is something that AU is very good at.  Every election cycle, AU sends letters to churches trying to scare them into not addressing the issues of the day, and breathing threats that any church who crosses AU’s imaginary line in the sand will get reported to the IRS (put another way, “if you don’t do what I say, I’m going to tell…”).  AU also reports churches to the IRS that it believes have violated the IRS rules and regulations.  What AU doesn’t tell you, though, is that the IRS almost never acts on any complaints AU files.  And what they don’t tell you is that the only substance behind AU’s threats against churches is their own say-so, which doesn’t amount to anything and certainly is not in line with constitutional law.

AU says that the Pulpit Initiative is a failure yet they continue to yell and scream about it to anyone who will listen.  This is the classic behavior of a playground bully who knows deep down inside that his only method of control is to scare people and who actually understands a threat to their regime of fear and intimidation.

And AU is wrong.  The Pulpit Initiative has been a success.  The Pulpit Initiative is a growing nationwide movement of pastors who refuse to be silenced and who refuse to let government agents look over their shoulder and censor what they preach from the pulpit.  And whether AU likes it or not, the Pulpit Initiative has opened to door to a new day where only pastors and the church leadership determine what is preached from the pulpit – and the government has no say-so in what a pastor preaches.  AU says it is an organization dedicated to preserving the separation of church and state yet it argues to continue a system of massive government entanglement and control of churches.  The inconsistency of their arguments is laughable.

Pastors, never let yourself be intimidated by the “playground bullies” of this age.  Preach the Gospel as God lays it on your heart to preach.  As Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”  Never let anyone scare you into silence on the vital moral issues of the day.  ADF will stand with you as we have stood with other pastors, and together we will see that the threats and intimidation by today’s bullies are nothing more than empty words.  And when we stand together, we’ll send these bullies packing.

Show the bullies you cannot be intimidated – sign up today for the Pulpit Initiative.

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts or follow us on Facebook to join the conversation. http://www.facebook.com/SpeakUpChurch (more…)

Advertisements

Have you Signed Up for the Pulpit Initiative Yet?

March 25, 2010

The Florida Baptist Witness recently posted an article about ADF’s Pulpit Initiative.  ADF has been speaking to pastors and church leaders across the country about the Pulpit Initiative, and encouraging them to sign up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday on September 26, 2010. 

The Pulpit Initiative is an opportunity for pastors to speak scriptural truth from the pulpit without fearing government censorship or control.  Something is wrong in America when we allow the government to step into the pulpit and censor a pastor’s sermon.  Whether you believe that a pastor should endorse or oppose a candidate from the pulpit is not the issue.  The issue the Pulpit Initiative was created to decide is who gets to make that decision for churches.  We believe that it is solely up to a pastor and the church leadership to decide whether to address candidates and elections from the pulpit and the government should not mandate that churches remain silent on this issue.  The Pulpit Initiative is intended to remove the government once and for all from the decison-making process of what gets said from the pulpit of a church.  It is time to remove the government from the pulpits of America.

Have you taken time to look at the information on our website about the Pulpit Initiative?  Have you prayerfully considered becoming part of this important fight?  If not, why not do so today?  become part of the movement to regain the sanctity and autonomy of America’s pulpits.  Join ADF in the Pulpit Initiative.

Rep. Michele Bachmann: “Repeal the Johnson Amendment”

March 12, 2010

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a radical leftist organization bent on intimidating pastors and churches into silence is making noise about a recent radio appearance by Rep. Michele Bachmann.  Rep. Bachmann came right out and said what most pastors believe when she stated that Congress should repeal the Johnson Amendment.

Here is what she said, as reported by the Minnesota Independent, that has AU so worked up:

“The reason why clergy are afraid to be involved is because of an amendment that former President Lyndon Johnson passed when he was a senator from Texas… that stops 501(3)c [sic] organizations from saying anything political from the pulpit. Now, churches can be political from the pulpit. They can talk about issues all they want. What they can’t do is endorse a candidate from the pulpit. But the ACLU has been all over the backs of churches… Christian and Jews and people of faith are not second class citizens… but these radical leftist organizations have been intimidating Christians for so long and pastors don’t generally now that they do have the right to speak out from the pulpit. Congress should repeal that amendment from Lyndon Johnson… We need to repeal that and give Christians back their first amendment rights to free speech in the church.”

I say a hearty “Amen” to Rep. Bachmann’s comments!  The Johnson Amendment has been used for far too long as a tool of intimidation and coercion against churches and pastors.  That is why ADF launched the Pulpit Initiative – to allow pastors to speak freely from their pulpits without fear of intimidation and censorship from the government, or anyone else for that matter.

Click here to sign up for the Pulpit Initiative.  Stand with ADF and hundreds of other pastors across the nation to regain the right of pastors to speak freely.

Should Churches be Taxed?

March 10, 2010

The Catholic League reported on March 5th that the Kansas House of Representatives was considering a bill that would remove the sales tax exemption for churches.  It is unclear at this point whether the bill has any chance of success, but it raises an issue that has been assumed, but not debated much, in American history – should churches be taxed at all?

Jesus made it very clear that as citizens of whatever country we live in, we should pay our taxes.  But the question of whether churches should be taxed at all is a different question altogether.  And it is one that judicial case law has not discussed much.

It has been assumed from the foundation of our country that churches should remain tax exempt.  In 1890, Kentucky State Representative Whittaker summed up the sentiment nicely when he said, “Let an untaxed Gospel be preached, in an untaxed church house, from an untaxed pulpit; let the emblem of a crucified, but risen Christ be administered from an untaxed altar, and, as the spire points heavenward, . . . let it stand forever untaxed.”

In 1970, the United States Supreme Court noted the “undeviating acceptance given religious tax exemptions from our earliest days as a Nation.  Rarely if ever has this Court considered the constitutionality of a practice for which the historical support is so overwhelming.”  Walz v. Tax Comm’n of City of New York, 397 U.S. 664, 681 (1970) (Brennan, J. concurring).  The very next year, the Supreme Court noted that nontaxation of churches is undergirded by “more than 200 years of virtually universal practice imbedded in our colonial experience and continuing into the present.”  Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 624 (1971).

Churches, as nonprofit organizations, are exempt from taxes not because of the public benefits that churches provide, although that is also a reason for exemption.  Rather, it is their very existence as non-profit entities that justifies church tax exemption.  Taxation naturally applies to profit-makers, the generators of revenue upon which government depends.  In his book, Why Churches Should Not Pay Taxes, Dean Kelley makes a powerful argument.  He states, “Other entities, which are not in the wealth producing category to begin with [such as churches], do not need to explain why they are not taxed any more than do the birds of the air or the rivers that flow to the sea. . . .  [Taxation] would be pointless, since they are not in any meaningful sense producers of wealth.”

In fact, taxing such nonprofits discourages their existence and amounts to double taxation.  All citizens, whether or not involved in a church or other nonprofit, are taxed on their individual incomes.  As Kelley notes again, “To tax them again for participation in voluntary organizations from which they derive no monetary gain would be ‘double taxation’ indeed, and would effectively serve to discourage them from devoting time, money, and energy to organizations which contribute to the up building of the fabric of democracy.”

There are many more reasons why churches should not pay taxes, but just these few demonstrate that the Kansas legislature should never let this bill see the light of day.

Let the Church Bells Ring

March 8, 2010

ADF has been representing Bishop Rick Painter, pastor of Christ the King Church in Phoenix, Arizona.  The City of Phoenix convicted Bishop Painter for violating the City’s noise ordinance and sentenced him to 10 days in jail (suspended) and 3 years of probation.  The City claimed that the church bell noises were unnecessary and disturbing even though the noise ordinance allows louder noises than the church bells – things like ice cream trucks and loudspeakers.

And if convicting Bishop Painter for ringing church bells was not enough, the City of Phoenix threatened St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish with prosecution for ringing its church bells.  Shortly after Bishop Painter’s conviction, two Phoenix police officers and two City Prosecutors visited St. mark in response to a neighbor’s complaint.

ADF appealed Bishop Painter’s conviction and also filed a federal lawsuit against the City on behalf of a group of churches, including Christ the King Cathedral, St. Mark, and First Christian Church in Phoenix.  On March 4th, 2010 the federal court issued an injunction prohibiting the City from enforcing its noise ordinance against “sound generated in the course of religious expression.”

This is a great win.  No pastor should ever be sentenced to jail for ringing church bells.  Churches have been ringing church bells for centuries and, as far as we can tell, this is the first time a pastor has ever been sentenced to jail for ringing church bells.

The federal court recognized the absurdity of the City’s actions and recognized that the noise ordinance was unconstitutional.  Let the church bells ring!

How Government Got Its Foot in the Door of our Churches

March 3, 2010

If asked whether their pastor is free to preach however he feels led to preach, many would say, “of course!”  And some might even view the question itself as ridiculous.

But perception is not always reality, and one subtle but potent threat to the freedom of the pulpit has been quietly infiltrating America’s churches since 1954. That was the year Lyndon Johnson – then a powerful senator from Texas facing a tough re-election battle – suddenly found his road to Capitol Hill effectively blocked when two influential private nonprofits distributed thousands of pieces of literature against his re-election bid.

To Johnson’s mind, the impact of that literature had to be neutralized, and he soon hit on an ingenious plan to silence his opponents. On July 2, 1954, he stepped out on the floor of the Senate to propose an amendment to a pending tax overhaul bill. His amendment (which included churches and Christian ministries within its reach) prohibited nonprofits from supporting or opposing candidates for office.  It passed unanimously, without objection or debate.

Pulpit

Johnson’s amendment did more than stop the opposition of these two non-profits in their tracks. It turned 200 years of American history on its ear. For the first time, the federal government was actually authorized to punish a pastor for preaching about candidates during an election season.

Now, whether you believe that your pastor should preach about candidates during election season or not, the point is that it’s not in the interest of religious freedom to allow the government to make that decision for us.  Nor is it the job of the state to decide how closely a church can follow the mandates of Scripture in governing itself and fulfilling the Great Commission.

If today the government can tell your pastor not to apply Scriptures to candidates and election issues, then tomorrow it will be able to restrict his Bible-based speech on other, non-election issues – like homosexual behavior – that the government decides it has an interest in protecting.  After that, it won’t be long before government will move to restrict the speech of your pastor on even the very basics of the faith.

That’s why ADF launched the Pulpit Initiative, where we are looking to kick the government out of the pulpits of America and protect a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing any government censorship or control.  If you are a pastor, let us know if you are interested in the Pulpit Initiative.  It’s time we stand together to reclaim the freedom of the pulpit in America.