POSTED: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 5:42pm
UPDATED: Monday, October 8, 2012 - 5:37pm
This Sunday many ministers across the country will be celebrating Pulpit Freedom Sunday.
It’s the fifth year now for the event, and the idea is to allow churches to get involved in politics.
It’s the brainchild of a San Diego pastor.
Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church feels the limits on political activity by tax exempt organizations should not apply to churches.
So he has started “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” wherein clergy purposefully endorse political positions and candidates in defiance of the IRS.
It dates back to 1954, when political opponents of Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson used their tax exempt foundations to campaign against him.
At his urging, Congress added a amendment in the tax code that you can be tax exempt, or political but not both.
But Johnson’s former aide George Reedy said years later that the Senator never intended it to apply to churches.
Not every member of the clergy agrees. A survey by the Southern Baptist Convention shows that 90% of ministers believe they should not endorse candidates from the pulpit.
Even Billy Graham regretted becoming too involved in party politics.…
"Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven't been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future."
Pastor David Dykes of Green Acres Baptist Church will be participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, but was unavailable to speak to us.
But we did talk to the Reverend David Luckenbach of Christ Episcopal C hurch.
“We have to be careful as followers of Jesus,” Fr. Luckenbach told us, “ to be careful with our tone. It’s one thing to have a position that’s a bible based position, that’s a faithful position, but it’s another to demonize the other side in a way that I think dishonors the Lord.”
But modern politics has become virtually a blood sport. Can pastors confidently tie themselves to a candidate or party in such a harshly negative atmosphere?
And as with Billy Graham’s regrets over endorsing Richard Nixon, do they run the risk of endorsing flawed men and women?
But in the end, both clergymen are in basic agreement.
“There is definitely a place for Christian pastors to endorse a political party or particular candidate. But I really think there isn’t a candidate that is so patently not a follower of Jesus that it is appropriate to get into the pulpit and make that kind of claim,” says Luckenbach.