Four years ago when Pulpit Freedom Sunday was birthed, only 30 pastors took part in the rebellion against the infamous Johnson Amendment in 1954 which illegally put a muzzle on America’s pastors from speaking for or against those running for government office.
Yesterday on Pulpit Freedom Sunday, over 1500 pastors participated in a consolidated effort to challenge the constitutionality of a restraint that could lose the tax exempt status of a non-profit for making a political statement. These same pastors pledged to not only make political statements from the pulpit, but to send the recordings of their sermons to the IRS.
Pastor Alan Hyatt, who is senior pastor of Camden Assembly of God in Campbell, incorporated a passionate plea from the pulpit on behalf of the nation of Israel. Although he didn’t direct people of the congregation how to vote, he did invoke Bible scripture concerning God about praying for the peace of Israel, and using a direct quote from Yahweh God by saying, “I will bless those that bless you, and curse those that curse you” regarding the nation of Israel.
One pastor used the story of Ahab and Jezebel from the Bible who were guilty of silencing the prophets of God from declaring God’s righteousness. There was a direct message not to support the re-election of President Barack Obama for his administration’s positions on abortion, same sex marriage, lack of support of Israel, and the threats to religious freedoms by the Obama Administration’s legislation.
The dubious amendment to the nation’s tax code began with Democratic Senator Lyndon Johnson running for office in Texas and winning the race by a mere 87 votes in 1948. Both liberal and conservative historians maintain that Johnson won when hundreds of fake votes were cast for Johnson’s benefit. The scandal earned Johnson the nickname of “Landslide Lyndon” for all the fake votes cast for his election.
In 1954 his re-election was vigorously being opposed by two non-profit anti-Communist groups in Texas. Johnson had his amendment tacked on to another measure with the hope of silencing the two vocal organizations from drumming up support against him. The bill not only silenced the two non-profit organizations, but restricted all non-profit organizations from making a political statement.http://www.firebuilders.org/JAmCEC.htm
Later representatives of Johnson’s office lamely said it was never intended for churches but the restriction still remains to this day.
The intrusion into the church by the government was never challenged by the Supreme Court. After all these years with pastors finally revolting, Pulpit Freedom Sunday was created to force a hearing by the Supreme Court and remove the restriction placed on pastors of churches which is a clear violation of religious freedom and free speech of the pastors.
The pulpits of our revolutionary fathers generated fiery unfettered sermons blasting the suppression of England over the colonies. Many revolutionary leaders were active members in their respective churches and were the backbone to the resistance.
Later many of the Abolitionists were again active members of their churches and used the word of God as a lighting rod to elevate the social conscience of the American people.
The birth of the civil rights movement took place around the period when the Johnson Amendment put a muzzle on pastors speaking for or against political issues. This very amendment assisted in keeping the civil rights movement from galvanizing support during the late 50s and early 60s. The reluctance to speak out on the political issues was an unanticipated result of the passage of the Johnson Amendment.
As government continues to intrude into the workings of religious organizations, Pulpit Freedom Sunday was created to object and to remove the restrictions of free speech that was part of the American landscape in the past before 1954.
Some organizations have appealed to maintain the illegal restrictions under separation of church and state, however separation of church and state does not supercede rights guaranteed by the US Consititution.
Pulpit Freedom Sunday is mainly ignored by most media outlets who prefer to report more liberal happenings as the Occupy movement. The impact of the Johnson Amendment has more far reaching effects to ten of thousands of non-profit organizations and millions of people.