Pastors to Challenge IRS on 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday'

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At least 100 church pastors will defy the Internal Revenue Service by endorsing political candidates for the Nov. 2 elections from their pulpits this weekend during Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

Those churches whose preachers do endorse a candidate, risk losing their tax-exempt status under IRS regulations. Other ministers have done the same thing for the past two years. Only one government investigation was started and it was almost immediately dropped, according to the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian advocacy group.

The purpose of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is to challenge IRS rules, adopted in 1954 at the request of then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson, that prohibit any speech from a church pulpit favoring or opposing a political candidate. Johnson found himself bearing the brunt of critical comments from Christian pastors concerned about his behavior in Washington.

However, the ADF says that rule unconstitutionally restricts a pastor's freedom of speech. The ministers hope to provoke a court case, so they can have the regulation overturned.

"The IRS should not be used as a political tool to advance the agenda of radical groups bent on silencing the voice of the church and inhibiting religious freedom," Erik Stanley, a senior counsel for the ADF told WorldNetDaily.

*Originally published September 24, 2010

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