In a story reported in a recent edition of Atlantic, we learned about a new Pew Research Center survey that indicates a growing crime spree within the churches of America, particularly within black Protestant churches. Their crime? Exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion from the pulpit by publicly declaring their support of a political candidate, Hillary Clinton.
How is this a crime, you ask?
When then-senator Lyndon Baines Johnson was facing a difficult campaign to keep his Senate seat in 1954, he was strongly opposed by a vocal group of Christians. With no legal means to silence his anti-leftist critics, Johnson successfully added language into Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code, granting full tax exemptions to various religious entities as long as they didn’t use their “net earnings” or conduct a “substantial part” of their activities for:
- “Carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation” or to
- “Participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
Thanks to what has become known as the Johnson Amendment, churches and synagogues were essentially paid for their silence.
For years there have been annual events in churches across America called Pulpit Freedom Sunday designed to challenge the Johnson Amendment — a noble endeavor, but it’s not enough anymore. Every Sunday needs to be Pulpit Freedom Sunday because America’s current perilous condition is directly attributed to the silence of today’s lukewarm churches.
Charles G. Finney was a major player in the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, and he was convinced that a corrupt society led by a corrupt government was the inevitable result of the church failing to do her job:
If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.
If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.
Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.
The black pastors identified by the PEW Research Center aren’t doing anything wrong (except for endorsing Hillary Clinton). In fact, what they are doing is very, very right from a Constitutional Conservative point of view. If anything, their error is in preaching politics instead of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because the church fails when we try to use politics to change our culture . . . instead of using our culture to change our politics.
Jesus once said, “The kingdom of God suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” America would never have been founded if not for the Black Robe Regiment; men who understood what Jesus meant. They challenged their congregations to rise up and do what needed to be done.
Today, it’s time for the church and all Americans to act like our rights come from God and not the government.
David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative, your source for opinion that’s politically-incorrect and always “right.” His articles can also be found on RedState.com.
His daily radio commentary is nationally syndicated with Salem Radio Network and can be heard on stations across America.