The Alliance Defense Fund is rallying far-right pastors around an effort to overturn a more than 60-year-old federal law that limits houses of worship and other tax-exempt nonprofits from participating in partisan election campaigns.
ADF and pastors like Steve Riggle of Houston and Jim Garlow of San Diego are calling on clergy to protest the law by participating in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” on October 7. From an ADF email to supporters on Tuesday:
Pastors should have the freedom to speak freely from their pulpits – even about issues related to candidates and elections without fearing government censorship or losing their tax exempt status.
Across the nation hundreds of pastors have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Join the growing movement of spiritual leaders standing for their God-given and constitutionally protected rights.
Since 1954, federal law has barred nonprofit organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code from keeping their tax-exempt status if they support or oppose candidates for elective office. So-called 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which include religious and nonreligious organizations, do not pay federal income taxes. In addition, donors to those organizations may deduct their contributions from their own income taxes. Houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) nonprofits may choose to engage in partisan election campaigns, but they would lose their tax exemptions.
ADF’s current efforts to change or overturn that law are part of a broader campaign by the religious right to drag churches into partisan politics. In Texas, for example, the Texas Restoration Project in 2005 and 2006 tried to mobilize thousands of conservative pastors in a poorly concealed effort to politicize congregations in support of Gov. Rick Perry’s re-election campaign.