In 1952 a young congressman, Lyndon B, Johnson, got angry at two businessmen who were using their nonprofit corporations to raise money and campaign against his reelection, so he authored a bill called the Johnson Amendment, which would amend the Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) and restrict non-profit tax-exempt entities from these kind of activities.
Two years later Congress passed that bill (without any debate or analysis) which, in effect, restricted the free speech of non-profit tax-exempt entities, including churches. Now, it is likely that churches being affected by this bill never even crossed Johnson's mind, but the deed was done.
Before that amendment was passed, there were no restrictions on what churches or religious organizations could or couldn't do with regard to speech about government and voting, except for a 1934 law preventing non-profits from using a substantial part of their funds, time and resources to lobby for legislation.
However, ever since that amendment passed, the IRS has steadfastly maintained that any speech by churches about candidates for office, including sermons from the pulpit, could result in loss of tax exemption. And the threat of that loss of tax exemption has dramatically impacted churches' exercise of their First Amendment rights.
A myth has been perpetuated over the years that churches and religious organizations were being prosecuted and losing their tax exemptions for violating the I.R.S. interpretation of this amendment.
But the fact is that in these 60 years since the amendment passed, to date, there is no reported situation where any church has lost its tax-exempt status or been directly punished for sermons delivered from the pulpit evaluating candidates for office in light of Scripture.
There have been occurrences of lost tax exemption and 501(c)(3) status for violations of the 1934 law prohibiting a nonprofit from using too much of their funds, time and resources to lobby for legislation. Generally speaking, this violation can be avoided, by using less than 5% of a 501(c)(3)'s total resources for political and legislative purposes.
The Johnson Amendment, when used to restrict speech from the pulpit of a church, violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.." One principle of the Establishment Clause is that the government must not become excessively entangled with religious affairs or meddle in internal church affairs. And if the I.R.S. does meddle, and excessively entangles itself with the church, they know that the courts will strike the government action as unconstitutional.
The Johnson Amendment also violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The Johnson amendment is a "content-based" restriction on speech, which means that it discriminates against certain speech solely based on the content of the expression. And the I.R.S. cannot parse and analyze the content of a sermon, which they are not constitutionally competent to do. Not only that, but this prohibition also violates the free exercise of religion.
For too long churches have feared the loss of tax-exempt status arising from speech in the pulpit addressing candidates for office. For too long pastors, rather than risk confrontation, have self-censored their speech, ignoring blatant immorality in government, and foregoing opportunities to praise moral government leaders. For too long pastors, who long to be relevant to society and to preach the Gospel in a way that has meaning in modern America, have kept silent through the most tumultuous election seasons lest they draw the attention of the IRS.
If there was ever a time for the church to directly confront the IRS and reclaim those expressive rights guaranteed to us in the United States Constitution, that time is now.
Christians are not a minority we are the majority
Charles Finney, a prominent minister in the early 1800s, declared:
"The time has come that Christians must vote for honest men and take consistent ground in politics.. God cannot sustain this free and blessed country which we love and pray for unless the Church will take right ground."
Christians are NOT a minority!
We are the majority!
It is time to declare at the ballot box that we will no longer allow officials who embrace the values of the 8 percent who do not believe in God to repeal the rights of the 92 percent who do.
We must remove officials who do not comply with traditional, historical and biblical principles and replace them with those who do.
Your vote does count!,