Wednesday, September 24

Freedom of Speech, for Pastors too.

I have 'made no bones' about my opposition to the IRS ban on churches and their pastors making known to their congregations who they will personally endorse and why in regards to the Presidential Election, or any election for public office in the United States of America. I know, according to an August polling, that a majority of Americans feel that the church should stay out of politics, indeed that Christian values shouldn't be a factor on who is nominated into the offices of the governing body.

It is strange that we allow our pastors to teach their personal views on Scriptures, even false doctrines, from the pulpit, but won't allow them to speak their personal opinions of political candidates.

It is funny, though, how Barack Obama was allowed to utter a political speech during the United Church of Christ's convention in Hartford, Conn. last year and no one was bothered by it.

The Reverend Eric Williams, in conjunction with some 55 other religious leaders, oppose the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and it's recruitment of ministers within the religious community to endorse or oppose candidates for political office in sermons. Reverend Williams, pastor of the North Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus Ohio, feels that "the rightful place of religious leaders and communities of faith in American life is not in electoral politics."
Don't vote your values, apparently. And don't hold those elected to lead this country according to their faith, either.

In endorsing or opposing candidates, even personally, from the pulpit can endanger the church's tax exempt status, although the UCC was not sanctioned under its own violation of the ruling. A ruling that was introduced by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson to stop a religious movement from harming his own election chances.
"Christians should not be penalized for expressing their beliefs, and that includes pastors," said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

Pastor Wiley Drake of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, California was the latest pastor to be brought under investigation by the IRS because he publically endorsed then-Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee on church letterhead and through his broadcasts on his radio program. Pastor Drake endorsed Huckabee as an individual and not as a representative of the church, which is his right under the protection of the First Amendment. The IRS cleared him of any violation in the charge brought by American United for Separation of Church and State.

But Reverend Williams feels that endorsing or opposing poltiical candidates unfairly imposes the pastor's views upon the congregation. In the compliant filed with the IRS against the ADF's action, Williams along with 55 other Christian and Jewish leaders said, ""As religious leaders, we have grave concerns about the ethical implications of soliciting and organizing churches to violate core principles of our society."

Therein lies the gist of the movement to remove this politically motivated rule, to allow Pastors of the faithful to remind their congregations to vote according to the values and core principles of their faith and highlight those candidates that they, as leaders of such, see as the ones who will promote those values.

President Johnson's legislation, written to protect the assurance of his own political motivations, has (as with all such legislation) morphed into a standing law that liberals have used for years to securely silence the moral teachers of this nation. Is it any wonder that a majority of Americans now feel that such teaching in the Christian community is wrong for the first time in over a decade?

With Barack Obama no longer a member of the UCC church that preached Black Liberation Theology, yet who has yet to stand in opposition to such teaching, and John McCain, who refuses to discuss his 'personal' faith, now more than ever before we need to have our 'nominated' (either by attendance or by election) religious leaders to sound in on who, if either, candidate they feel supports, will defend, and can promote such values that they preach from the pulpit each and every Sunday.
I have posted the ADF's petition to Pastors below regarding this issue.

Although I am not a pastor of a church and am on hiatus from chaplaining the Meadowbrook Chapel, I would sign this in a heartbeat. I would urge those in congregations to support their pastoral staff in their endorsement of this petition to restore "First Amendment rights" to those who lead us in our faith.

It is time for the body of Christ to stop living it's faith only inside the walls of the church on Sunday and represent its faith to the world in everything, at all times.

In Christ,
Jim Hutson
Senior Chaplain, (LOA)
Meadowbrook Chapel

ADF's petition statement:

Dear Pastor,
The upcoming election is the most critical in the history of our nation. The very future of our nation’s foundation is at stake. Every person will be affected. If the liberals win, then our foundation will no longer be based on the traditional Judeo-Christian morality. It will gradually but assuredly be based on an ever shifting, ever moving foundation.

In case you may think I’m a “the sky is falling” type of person, you should know: I am a graduate of Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, and Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. I am an ordained United Methodist minister and have been for 44 years. I founded AFA more than 30 years ago and see the upcoming election as the most critical ever. Yes, if the liberals win you will lose some of your religious freedom and free speech rights. You will not be allowed to say certain things about a particular group. Homosexual marriage will be approved.

I cannot overemphasize the importance the Nov. 4 election. That is why I hope you will sign the Pastor’s Pledge, and forward it to fellow pastors and encourage them to sign the Pastor’s Pledge.

Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman
American Family Association
I pledge to:
1. Encourage my members to register to vote.
2. Encourage my members to study the issues.
3. Encourage my members to vote.

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