Sunday, October 02, 2011

Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Glenn Beck interviews two Drew alumni GBTV about Pulpit Freedom Day--Oct 2.





For most mainline Protestant churches, today is World Communion Sunday.  For many Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches, the first Sunday in October is for blessing animals in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi whose anniversary and Feast Day is this week.  For at least 500 mostly conservative evangelical churches and pastors, today is Pulpit Freedom Sunday
 
In light of what’s at stake in congregational legislation and upcoming elections, should pastors and other ministerial leaders be free to support or oppose specific political issues related to social policy, ethics and morality, or endorse political candidates who share their biblical-informed, Christian-based, principles and religious views.  Or should the government and its legal tax codes enacted by Congress limit freedom of speech when it comes to faith and politics expressed from the pulpit or in the name of a church?   

Since 1954, the Johnson Amendment has been selectively applied to prohibit churches and their pastors from political pronouncements or activities?  

The Johnson Amendment states that entities that are exempt from federal income tax cannot: 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.

There are, of course, very good reasons why a wise and responsible pastor should be careful when it comes to showing their support of political candidates and calling attention to their stands on social and ethical issues that affect the best interests of their congregation and community.  But that’s exactly the point—pastors and congregations should decide what issues and candidates to support or opposed based on their religious views, not the government. 

I’ll have more to say about 'freedom in the pulpit' at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco this week where I will be teaching a Doctor of Ministry course on the Theology and Practice of Shalom.  In preparing for class with pastors from the SF Bay Area, I’ve been thinking about the “Politics of Shalom” in the current political, economic and spiritual climate in the USA and the rest of the world. 
 
Conservative talk show host, Glenn Beck, did a TV segment this week on Pulpit Freedom Sunday called “Pastors on the Left and Right”.  I was the “lefty” in his interview, and if you’re interested in what two ministers had to say, here’s the clip: GBTV

I welcome your comments as I continue to explore this issue:  mchriste@drew.edu