Unfortunately, his scheme has achieved much success. That is, until now. I suspect the realization that it lacks constitutional authority to yank any church’s tax exemption for “politicking” has prompted the IRS to finally lay down its arms.
But there’s a back story. Since 2008, the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has spearheaded a First Amendment exercise called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Since then, thousands of pastors across America have boldly exercised their guaranteed constitutional rights by addressing “political” issues from the pulpit. This has included directly endorsing candidates. These pastors have dared the IRS to come after them and, not surprisingly, the IRS has balked.
Essentially, the goal was twofold. First, it was hoped that if the IRS tried, somehow, to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status, that church could sue and, once and for all, have the Johnson Amendment ruled unconstitutional.
The second possibility was that, rather than having the “no politicking” rule completely thrown out, the IRS would choose, instead, the path of least resistance – that it would simply do nothing. It has chosen door No. 2. Not only has the IRS done nothing, it has, at least for now, completely thrown in the towel.
The next step is to repeal the toothless Johnson Amendment. This will do away with any residual confusion. A Republican-led Congress and a President Romney could do just that.
Indeed, the staggering gravity of Tuesday’s election has weighed heavily on the hearts of spiritual leaders who, hitherto, have remained completely apolitical. Obama’s unprecedented attacks on life, freedom, faith and family have prompted the Rev. Billy Graham, for instance, to run full-page advertisements in newspapers across the country, urging voters to choose candidates who support biblical values of life, natural marriage, and religious liberty.
People are taking notice.
“This is unprecedented for the world’s best-known evangelist,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Billy Graham has always steered clear of politics. In reality, Billy Graham has merely raised his prophetic voice like any preacher should when biblical and moral values are placed in jeopardy by politicians.”
John MacArthur, a well-known pastor and author who, over the years, has spoken out against Christian political advocacy, has also had a dramatic change of heart. “I was amazed that one of the historic parties in the U.S. adopted the sins of Romans 1 as their platform,” MacArthur said of the DNC in a recent Sunday morning sermon. “This is a new day in our country. Parties that used to differ on economics, now differ dramatically on issues that invade the realm of God’s law and morality.”
”I am beginning to see more and more pastors waking up and realizing that biblical and moral issues are under attack and they have no choice but to speak,” noted Staver. “This isn’t politics; it is biblical and moral issues that have been politicized.”
In 1980, Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell, along with other venerable Christian leaders, was central to placing Ronald Reagan in the White House. Today’s socio-political stage is strikingly similar. Pastors are poised to do the same thing for Mitt Romney.
At the time, Falwell gave a rousing call to arms: “What is wrong in America today?” he asked. “We preachers – and there are 340,000 of us who pastor churches – we hold the nation in our hand. And I say this to every preacher: We are going to stand accountable before God if we do not stand up and be counted.”
Pastors, stand up and be counted. The IRS muzzle has been removed. The choice is clear.
You know what to do.
Now go and do it.
Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber).