Americans United for Separation of Church and State is warning
churches and pastors that they must abide by federal law as
Election Day approaches, but one attorney says the 60,000 churches
and religious organizations that have received the letter shouldn't
Erik Stanley of Alliance Defending Freedom says Americans
United is trying to frighten churches into silence about elections
and "moral and biblical issues confronting the candidates."
"But the reality is that no pastor should ever fear the IRS or
Americans United for that matter when they stand in their pulpit to
preach biblical truth," Stanley asserts. "That's our message, and …
no church or pastor should be afraid of these letters that are
being sent out by Americans United."
The letter cites the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which prohibits
churches or pastors from endorsing candidates from the pulpit. If
they do so, under that amendment they risk the threat of losing
their tax-exempt status.
"It's very ironic that a group with 'separation of church and
state' in its name is arguing for more governmental monitoring and
control of churches. That's not the separation of church and state.
These letters are nothing more than intimidation tactics," Stanley
contends. "But churches must not be afraid. They need to stand and
proclaim biblical truth during this election season, and there's
nothing wrong with doing so."
The ADF attorney goes on to argue that the Johnson Amendment is
"blatantly unconstitutional," and he notes the upcoming Pulpit Freedom Sunday -- a day in which pastors
are encouraged to speak out for biblical principles. Any pastor
challenged for doing so will be offered the legal representation of
Alliance Defending Freedom.