This article makes it seem as if the only churches that engage in the kind of speech the IRS proscribes for tax-exempt organizations are conservative Evangelical churches. Given the long history of African-American churches as centers of political organization in their communities, that can’t be and simply isn’t true.
This piece offers a cogent defense of the ADF’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday initiative. While I think that the First Amendment’s free exercise clause offers a pretty good argument for the tax exempt status of churches (otherwise the government could use its tax policy to influence their behavior, something that we have of course–wink, wink–rarely seen), it seems to me that the best defense of religious freedom is political.
I don’t want judges or IRS bureaucrats deciding which statements made from the pulpit or elsewhere in the church reflect the “core mission” and which don’t. I’d rather have people across the country tell politicians to keep their hands off our churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples and punish them at the ballot box (a quaint expression prior to Sandy) if they don’t. Of course, doing so requires precisely the kind of education that ADF is undertaking (though it would be more effective if some Obama-supporting pastors could be recruited to join the effort).
For what it’s worth, I have never heard a statement endorsing a candidate from the pulpit in a church I have attended. But that doesn’t mean I regard such statements as simply extraneous to the mission or un-biblical.