June 22, 2012
Churches Gearing Up For Election Season - Fortnight for Freedom and Pulpit Freedom Sunday
As reported in the Chicago Tribune, a recent Reuters article discusses the ongoing work of the Alliance Defense Fund, the creator of Pulpit Freedom Sunday. As previously blogged, this event's purpose is to "have the Johnson Amendment [adding the political activity prohibition to section 501(c)(3)] declared unconstitutional – and once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit." In 2011, approximately 540 pastors in churches around the country "preached sermons that compared the positions held by candidates with what Scripture says about those issues. The pastors then made specific recommendations about those candidates (including recommendations about whether the congregation should vote for or against them)." The goal of the movement is to force a court case on the issue, with hopes that it will result in their favor - striking the prohibition from 501(c)(3). The article discusses the continuing recruitment of new pastors to join the movement, forcing the IRS to act and begin the ultimate court fight.
In a similar, but unrelated event, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have called for their own Fortnight for Freedom beginning this week (from June 21 to July 4), which encompasses holding masses and rallies, and using parish bulletins to voice opposition to the Obama administration's healthcare regulations on contraceptives. The Conference's website describes this event as a "special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action [that] will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty."
The article concludes with some interesting data from recent Pew Research Center studies on this issue. In a January 2012 poll, only 18% of the participants responded that a candidate endorsement by their minister, priest or rabbi would impact their voting decision; 70% polled that it would have no impact.
In a second study conducted this spring, Pew discovered that most parishioners prefer that their religious leaders stay out of the political realm, with Catholic participants being the "most adamant."
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