I am torn.
According to a recent article by the Florida Baptist Witness, a group of concerned citizens are recruiting pastors to challenge a 55 year old law that prohibits non-profit organizations, including churches, from endorsing specific political candidates. Practically speaking this law empowers the IRS to censor the content that is offered from church pulpits.
On the one hand, I am sympathetic to this cause because I do not believe that anyone should censor legitimate speach. In a free society political speach should not be censored. Further, while not being an alarmist, I am concerned that allowing the government this authority to regulate what is proclaimed from a church pulpit may one day broaden and include other issues that are moral-theological in nature but that have political implications – or that have simply become politicized. The IRS is an agency with all authority and functions with a “guilty until proven innocent” M.O. Having them as regulators is a dangerous proposition.
On the other hand, the pulpit is a place that should be unconditionally reserved for the proclamation of the Gospel. PERIOD! While I do not like my civil rights infringed, I have no right, under God’s direction, to use the pulpit for anything other than declaring, teaching, and applying God’s Word. Political speach becomes an easy – and often seductive – substitute for the real responsibility that ministers of the Gospel are charged to do. Loosening the present law will not change my conviction, nor my practice, whatsoever. But if the present law will keep some of my clergical colleagues focused on our collective purpose, well, that seems to be a good thing.
For those interested in this discussion, you might want to check out: Speak Up Movement