Censoring SermonsSep 27, 2017
For more than 60 years, the IRS has used the “Johnson Amendment” to censor what churches and pastors preach from the pulpit. Under the Johnson Amendment, pastors' First Amendment rights have become bargaining chips to be exchanged for a tax status. Pastors who share truth on biblical issues – like the sanctity of life and marriage – could risk intrusive IRS audits, incur steep fines, and even jeopardize their church’s tax-exempt status.
It’s time to fix the Johnson Amendment. Right now, we have the opportunity to restore free speech to all nonprofits, including churches and their leaders, through the Free Speech Fairness Act sponsored by Oklahoma Senator, and former youth pastor, James Lankford.
The FSFA is the culmination of nearly 10 years of advocacy to fix the Johnson Amendment and put an end to IRS intimidation and censorship of America’s pulpits. Unfortunately, a small, but vocal, group of religious organizations is petitioning Congress to keep the Johnson Amendment. We need to ensure that Congress hears from the rest of our religious leaders, who overwhelmingly believe that pastors and churches should be free to apply Scripture to every aspect of life—including candidates and elections—as their conscience requires.
If you are a pastor, please read the letter and consider signing your name in support of this important bill. If you're not a pastor, please encourage your pastor to sign today.
By signing your name to the letter, your voice will join a nationwide movement of pastors calling on Congress to pass the Free Speech Fairness Act and restore freedom of speech to America’s pulpits. Visit www.pulpitfreedom.org to learn more.
Contact Congress TODAY – Repeal “Johnson Amendment” in Tax Bill
Contact Congress TODAY – Repeal “Johnson Amendment” in Tax Bill
Congress has a historic opportunity to protect the free speech rights of churches and non-profits on the tax reform bill Congress is expected to finalize and send to the president before Christmas! The House passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act contains a critical provision called the “Free Speech Fairness” Act” to gut the Johnson Amendment restriction on churches and non-profits from engaging in political speech. However, the Senate’s version of the bill did not contain this provision.
The House and Senate have created a special “conference” to reconcile the different versions of the tax bill, and they plan to meet starting today. I want to encourage you to contact the “conferees” and the House and Senate leadership to ensure the final bill includes the repeal of the speech-killing Johnson Amendment.
For more than 60 years, the IRS has used the “Johnson Amendment” to censor what pastors preach from the pulpit. Under the Johnson Amendment, pastors’ First Amendment rights have become bargaining chips to be exchanged for a tax status. Pastors who share truth on biblical issues – like the sanctity of life and marriage – could risk intrusive IRS audits, incur steep fines, and even jeopardize their church’s tax-exempt status.
It’s also important to note that the House-passed version’s repeal of the Johnson Amendment contains a “sunset” date, and would mean it would go back into effect in 2024. Congress must ensure that the House language regarding the Johnson Amendment is included in the final passage of the bill and that the sunset is removed from the final conference report. The Constitution should not be sunset.
Please call the GOP conferees and House and Senate leadership offices today or tomorrow and encourage them to keep the Fairness Act language and to remove the 2024 sunset so they can send this critical provision to President Trump before Christmas!
We Got Your Back, Jack!
We Got Your Back, Jack!
On Tuesday, I had the honor of joining several pro-family leaders, including the Colson Center’s John Stonestreet, Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, and many others, by addressing the crowd on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court as it heard arguments in the Jack Phillips free speech case.
You can watch my remarks here (beginning at the 3-minute mark) on our Facebook page.
If you aren’t familiar with the details of the case, I encourage you to watch this video. This case of significant impact is fundamentally about the role of government vs. freedom. Do you believe that we should empower our government to force people, particularly those whose occupations require creative speech, to speak in a way that violates their deeply held beliefs? This is not an issue of a business owner having to “accommodate” anyone who walks in their door – Jack Phillips did that for any individual who entered his cake-making business – including homosexual people. However, he politely declined a message – in support of so-called same-sex marriage – that violates his conscience, as he had done previously by declining to make cakes celebrating Halloween and in various other instances.
Those, such as the ACLU, who believe that the government should be able to compel objectionable speech, continue to obfuscate the facts by deceptively ignoring the distinction between a business serving an individual and being forced to participate in an event or speech that violates their conscience. Based on what I heard yesterday outside the Court, there is little doubt that the ACLU and their allies want a government that has the power to crush any and all dissent to the sexual revolution, particularly when it comes to marriage.
Inside the Court, the justices seemed to come down along predictable liberal vs. conservative lines, with the swing vote Anthony Kennedy sending mixed signals. He clearly was concerned that the government of the state of Colorado, which attacked Jack Phillips, was acting out of anti-religious animus, but worried about the implications of accommodating religious belief. Several justices were clearly uncomfortable with the obvious religious animus expressed by the ACLU’s attorney and the state of Colorado. Whether that will be enough for the Justices to side with freedom and the constitution is anyone’s guess.
We likely won’t have a decision prior to the end of June, when the Court routinely releases its opinions in “controversial” cases. In the meantime, continue to pray for the Court, for Jack Phillips, and all of those involved with this case.
Finally, I want to say thank you to all of you who joined us outside the Court yesterday! Many of you met to get on buses in the dark, early morning hours and spent most of the morning standing in the chilly, Washington, DC December weather! But the crowd was fantastic and sent a huge message to Jack Phillips and his family – We Got Your Back, Jack!
It’s Not About Wedding Cakes
It’s Not About Wedding Cakes
What’s all the hype about wedding cakes in recent days? And why will a lawsuit involving a cake maker prove to be the most closely-watched and scrutinized decision the U.S. Supreme Court announces all year? You might even be thinking: Well I like cake and all, but who knew it was that important?
If you hadn’t picked up on it by now, when it comes to cultural battles – and especially the ones played out at the level of the Supreme Court – the issue is almost never really the issue. That is to say, the seemingly small thing over which highly divergent metaphysical universes are colliding is simply the vehicle chosen to carry a more fundamental idea across the goal line. In this latest faceoff, that vehicle is a cake designer and his creation of a custom wedding cake.
While a wedding cake is not exactly a need for human survival, nor something that the average person encounters in his daily life, there is at stake within this cake a very fundamental value, which for one side may be the most fundamental of all: An individual’s right to live according to the dictates of his conscience, informed by his sincerely-held religious beliefs. On the opposite side stands the alleged right to be free from discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” in places of “public accommodation.”
The competing questions could thus be posed: Should a wedding cake artist/designer be forced to create a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony if doing so would violate his deeply-held religious beliefs about the nature of marriage and thereby make him feel complicit in celebrating something he believes dishonors God? And on the other side: Should a person be denied a service by a business, who holds itself out as serving the public, on the basis of that person’s sexual practices and preferences or because they hold a different view about the nature of marriage and wish to celebrate it accordingly?
Prudent minds should be raising an important question: Can’t Christian cake artists and same-sex couples who want a custom wedding cake peacefully coexist? Is it really too much to ask that each side gets what it wants, and everyone can go home happy?
Yes and no. But it depends on who’s being asked.
It would seem that if Christian cake artists can do business without violating their consciences and same-sex couples can still get their dream wedding cake, then there is really no conflict after all. And if that’s the case, we can all just get on with our lives. The universes need not collide.
As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what unraveled here. After Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop declined to design a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple, other local bakeries responded by offering to design a wedding cake for them and give it to them for FREE. My goodness – that sounds like more than a win-win. In the end, the same-sex couple was actually better off. Not only did it become quickly apparent that the couple had plenty of options for willing cake designers, but some even wanted to go above and beyond to bless them in their circumstances.
Jack Phillips, on the other hand, was arguably worse off, since the public backlash against him for his decision not to design the couple’s wedding cake caused his business to lose about 40% of its revenue. But from Jack’s perspective, his commitment to God is more important than money or popularity, and at least he gets to continue to live his life – including running his business – in accordance with his faith.
But lest we forget, this was never about a wedding cake. The same-sex couple decided to sue Jack anyway, willing even to press their cause all the way to the highest court in the land. For this couple and the many like them who feel vicariously represented, it’s not enough to “live and let live.” It isn’t sufficient that they be able to obtain the services they’re looking for, even if it can’t be from Jack. No, they must ensure that no one ever dares to suggest that their concepts of marriage and sexuality are anything but normal, beautiful and good. Not only must Jack create for them a cake if they want one; he must join with them in celebrating a union anathema to his most deeply-held convictions. And he must serve as an example to all others like him that they had better give up their religious convictions about marriage and sexuality or else be ready to forfeit their business, their reputation, and their livelihood.
That’s what this case is really about.
While the Supreme Court may have recently granted a newfound right for same-sex couples to participate in the union called marriage, it did not (and indeed, cannot) grant to them the ability to deny to others their long-recognized freedoms, like Jack Phillips’ rights to free exercise of religion, speech, and expression in choosing not to design a cake for a religious ceremony. As the saying goes, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Or better yet, “You can’t have your cake and deny others their freedom too.”
Rest assured, this case never was about wedding cakes. At base it’s about whether we as a society will continue to recognize that each person has a supreme duty to God and that the rest of us, therefore, have a corresponding duty to permit them to fulfill it. No less than this determination is at stake when the Supreme Court renders its opinion. As it does so, the Justices would do well to consider the following portion of Article I Section 16 of Virginia’s Bill of Rights:
“That religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other. No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”