A group advocating the First Amendment right of pastors to endorse political candidates plans to stage a protest this Sunday encouraging clergymen to defy the rules governing tax-exempt organizations.
The Alliance Defense Fund has called for September 28 to be "Pulpit Freedom Sunday." The move will challenge provisions of the Tax Code passed by Congress in 1954 barring tax-exempt organizations from political endorsements.
"For the last 54 years, out of fear of losing their tax-exempt status, our nation's pastors and priests have largely remained silent," wrote CEO Alan Sears on the group's Web site. "Rather than risk confrontation, pastors have often self-censored their speech... Those pastors who have longed to be relevant to society, to preach the Gospel in a way that has meaning in modern America, have studiously ignored much that has gone on in every tumultuous election season lest they drew wrath from the IRS."
So far, the group has signed up pastors from at least 20 states and approximately 30 churches who plan to advise their congregations on the presidential candidates' views and how well they align with Scripture.
Meanwhile, a rival group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, plans to report any pastors who defy the ban to the IRS. "Taking part in this reckless stunt is a one-way ticket to loss of tax exemption," said executive director Rev. Barry W. Lynn in a statement. "We'll be watching, and pastors who violate the law can expect their churches to be reported to the IRS the first thing Monday morning."
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