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WASHINGTON, DC - -- This afternoon at a Capitol Hill news conference, Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins endorsed the newly introduced Free Speech Fairness Act (HR 6195) sponsored by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.).
The Free Speech Fairness Act would address the shortcomings of the Johnson Amendment which in 1954 was inserted into the tax code by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, (D-Texas) without floor or Committee debate. The Johnson amendment prohibits churches and non-profits from engaging in any activity that might be interpreted as participating in, or intervening in a campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for public office, including a simple oral or written statement. The legislation reflects the newly adopted Republican Party platform language which criticizes the Johnson Amendment for restricting the “First Amendment freedoms of all nonprofit organizations by prohibiting political speech.”
On Sunday October 2nd, pastors across the country will participate in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” a day in which pastors declare to their congregations that what they say behind the pulpit should be accountable to God alone, not the IRS. Pulpit Freedom Sunday events over the past years have involved thousands of pastors speaking on political matters, and the goal was to elicit a court challenge. The IRS has not directly responded to these sermons, which means restoring these free speech rights requires a legislative rather than a legal strategy.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments endorsing the measure:
"Since the birth of our nation, pastors and churches have been at the forefront of shaping public debate and our choice of public servants. What would America look like today had the Rev. Lyman Beecher, a leading abolitionist, or the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. been muzzled by the IRS?
“Dr. King once wrote, 'The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.' The church should not have to gain its authority or approval to speak from the government because doing so reduces it to a servant of the state.
“From the IRS’s abuse of power in recent years to the subpoenas of sermons in Houston, it’s clearly time to rein in government intimidation of free speech. Pastors should be held to accountable to God alone for what they say behind the pulpit, not the IRS.
“Family Research Council endorses the Free Speech Fairness Act and urges Congress to move forward with eliminating these IRS rules that infringe on the free speech rights of churches and non-profit organizations,” concluded Perkins.
Go to http://watchmenpastors.org/pulpit/ for more information on “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.”