Archive | September, 2012

1,000 Pastors to Claim Free Speech

26 Sep

From Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom:

The number of pastors registered to participate in Alliance Defending Freedom’s fifth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday has exceeded 1,000, nearly doubling last year’s participation. Registration continues until Oct. 7, so the number continues to rise.

The registered pastors have committed to preach sermons that present biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates. In so doing, they will exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to engage in religious expression from the pulpit despite an Internal Revenue Service rule known as the Johnson Amendment that activist groups often use to silence churches by threatening their tax-exempt status.

“Pastors should decide what they preach from the pulpit, not the IRS,” said Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “It’s outrageous for pastors and churches to be threatened or punished by the government for applying biblical teachings to all areas of life, including candidates and elections. The question is, ‘Who should decide the content of sermons: pastors or the IRS?’”

“No government-recognized status can be conditioned upon the surrender of a constitutionally protected right,” Stanley explained. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment. Likewise, no one should be asking him to give up his church’s tax-exempt status to be able to keep his constitutionally protected right to free speech.”

Pulpit Freedom Sunday, on Oct. 7 this year, is an event associated with the Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. Alliance Defending Freedom hopes to eventually go to court to have the Johnson Amendment struck down as unconstitutional for its regulation of sermons, which are protected by the First Amendment.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday began in 2008 with 33 participating pastors. Participation increased each year, with last year’s participation blossoming to 539. This year’s registered participation is currently 1,050 and growing.

A national phone survey conducted by Alliance Defending Freedom and LifeWay Research with 1,000 randomly drawn senior pastors prior to last year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday found that nearly nine out of 10 Protestant pastors believe that the government should not regulate their sermons.

Advertisements

President Attacks Religious Liberty, but asks Faithful to Vote for Him

24 Sep

By Bethany Monk
CitizenLink

On Monday, President Obama asked for support in his re-election bid from the faith community with a video saying his “commitment to protecting religious liberty is and always will be unwavering.”

“These shared moral obligations have guided me as president,” he declares. “Let your friends, family and fellow believers know why you are supporting this campaign.”

However, the Obama administration is currently the subject of 30 religious-freedom lawsuits, saying that a mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requiring employers to provide health care insurance covering free  contraceptives and possible abortifacient drugs for employees, violates the First Amendment as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“When we hear President Obama say that his commitment to protect religious liberty is unwavering, we can only respond with ‘actions speak louder than words,’ ” Catholic League Communications Director Jeff Field told CitizenLink. “Not only has his administration been in direct conflict with religious-liberty rights, it has led the fight to trample on them.”

Since 2011, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has been waging lawsuits on behalf of Belmont Abbey College and Colorado Christian University. On Sept. 12, the firm added arts and crafts retailing giant Hobby Lobby to the list of those suing the government over the mandate.

CEO and Founder David Green said he is willing to face the consequences of not adhering to the mandate. The company, which is family-owned, could face fines of up to $1.3 million a day starting in January.

“By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow,” Green said. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”

And College of the Ozarks — a private Christian university in Point Lookout, Mo. — filed a separate lawsuit against the government on Monday, the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. It is represented by Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP.

College President Jerry David said the mandate violates “our religious rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution,” according to OzarksFirst.com.

Obama claimed in his speech Monday that as America’s diversity continues to grow, “we have the chance to reaffirm the pluralism that has defined us as a nation. A pluralism that is expansive enough to protect the rights of all to speak their minds and to follow their conscience.”

Field said it is unlikely Obama will live up to his words.

“We will be the first to congratulate the president if he indeed becomes a leader in protecting religious liberty,” Field said. But “there is no reason to believe that President Obama will change his stripes. Until his actions meet his rhetoric, nothing will change.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION Watch the video.

Hundreds of Pastors Challenge IRS Restriction on Free Speech

20 Sep

By Fox News

More than 1,000 pastors are planning to challenge the IRS next month by  deliberately preaching politics ahead of the presidential election despite a  federal ban on endorsements from the pulpit.

The defiant move, they hope, will prompt the IRS to enforce a 1954 tax code  amendment that prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from making  political endorsements. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is holding the October  summit, said it wants the IRS to press the matter so it can be decided in court.  The group believes the law violates the First Amendment by “muzzling” preachers.

“The purpose is to make sure that the pastor — and not the IRS — decides  what is said from the pulpit,” Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the group,  told FoxNews.com. “It is a head-on constitutional challenge.”

Stanley said pastors attending the Oct. 7 “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will “preach sermons that will talk about the candidates running for office” and then “make a specific recommendation.”

“We’re hoping the IRS will respond by doing what they have threatened,” he  said. “We have to wait for it to be applied to a particular church or pastor so  that we can challenge it in court. We don’t think it’s going to take long for a  judge to strike this down as unconstitutional.”

An amendment was made to the IRS tax code in 1954, stating that tax-exempt  organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly  participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in  opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

“Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of  tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax,” the IRS says in its  online guide for churches and religious organizations seeking tax exemption.

Stanley and others, like San Diego pastor Jim Garlow, say the IRS regularly  threatens churches that they will lose their tax-exempt status if they preach  politics. But Stanley and Garlow claim the government never acts on the threat  because it wants to avoid a court battle.

“It is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Stanley. “They just prefer to put  out these vague statements and regulations and enforce it through a system of  intimidation … Pastors are afraid to address anything political from the  pulpit.”

“The IRS will send out notices from time to time and say you crossed the  line,” added Garlow, a senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego. “But when it’s time to go to court, they close the case.”

A spokeswoman for the IRS did not comment on the matter and instead referred  all inquiries to the government’s online handbook.

Garlow and other pastors say their concerns over the code extend well beyond  the law.

“I’m very concerned about the spiritual side of this,” Garlow told  FoxNews.com. “There’s a phenomenon occurring in America and that’s a loss of  religious liberty.”

“If I would have said 50 years that ‘Tearing up a baby in the womb is a bad  thing,’ people would have said ‘Of course it is,’” Garlow said. “But If I said  that today, people would say ‘Pastor, you’re being too political.”

Good News!

16 Sep

Sermon Notes from Red Mountain Community Church, Mesa, Pastor Bob Fox

Scripture: Romans 6: 15-23

Here’s a question for all who have believed that Jesus died for their sins and so are forgiven. Since I’m forgiven, why not indulge?

So . . . Why Not?

1. Sin can still enslave me, and its death spiral will take me far from God.

2. I can now become obedient from the heart and become increasingly righteous, with all its reward.

3. I can reverse the “Friday Night Syndrome.” I can intentionally engage actions and processes that produce change and soundness.

4. Sin ultimately produces a loss of dignity.

5. I’m better off giving myself to eternal things that have an eternal pay out.

Three important principles

1. Sin brings to us a just result—separation from God.

2. Through Christ, God always offers us an eternal quality of life absolutely free.

3. The good news remains good news to believers, about quality of life.

Evangelicals for Mitt Romney Explain Their Case

8 Sep

Submitted by Evangelicals for Mitt

Editor’s Note: The summary below is based primarily upon our first  support statement, drafted when this site launched in 2006.  It holds  up well, we think, but since 2006 the case for Mitt Romney has only  grown stronger.  While EFM believes that cultural issues are — and will  remain — central to the life and health of our country, we cannot  focus on cultural issues to the exclusion of the very real economic and  military challenges we continue to face.  While the surge has led to a  fragile victory in Iraq, our economy has not fared so well.  Between now  and the date when Governor Romney decides whether (or not) to pursue  the Republican nomination, we will often speak of the “relentless logic”  of his candidacy.  After all, which (potential) candidate combines his  level of proven economic expertise with the right character,  temperament, resolve, and commitment to life and the family?

We want a candidate who shares our political and moral values and  priorities, can win in 2012, and can govern effectively thereafter by articulating and  implementing an intelligent, values-based governing strategy. This is just what Mitt Romney did as  governor, this is just what Mitt Romney did in business, and this is  what he would do as president.

Governor Romney Shares Our Political & Moral Values

Political and moral values are informed by — but not the same as — one’s religion. That’s why we are not casting our lot with the  person whose theology we like most.  History shows that to be a poor  approach.

For example, in 1980 voters had two choices: a divorced movie actor who did not regularly attend church and was not on good terms with all of his children, and a once-married Southern Baptist whose evangelicalism was at the core of his public identity. Voting on the basis of whose religious doctrine was better would have meant electing the second guy — Jimmy Carter — over the first, Ronald Reagan. Excluding those who don’t hold to orthodox Christianity would also have meant excluding such great Americans as Thomas Jefferson — who denied the divinity of Christ — from positions of authority. But Is anybody going to argue someone else should’ve written the Declaration of Independence?

We need a president who embraces a comprehensive and positive values agenda: standing for the sanctity of life, protecting traditional marriage, defending religious liberty and basic human rights at home and abroad, combating poverty and disease within the world’s poorest communities, fighting for better quality of life for our citizens, and winning the War on Terror.

We need a president who has the right economic values.  We too often  place the economy and culture in completely separate spheres, content to  worry about “social issues” when (and only when) our paychecks are  secure.  This is exactly the wrong approach.  Governor Romney  understands that the health of the economy and the health of the family  are inextricably intertwined.  There can be no long-term prosperity  without healthy families, and it is a profound moral problem when we pay  for the sins of the present by bankrupting our children

Governor Romney Can Unite the Conservative Movement and Forge a Winning Coalition

If the debacle of 2008 taught us anything, it’s that you cannot  abandon the base and win an election.  We must unite fiscal and social  conservatives within the same tent.  We cannot argue over which of the  self-described “wings” of the party are most crucial.  At its best, the  Republican coalition combines a fierce commitment to national security,  sound economic conservatism that is responsive to changing economic  conditions, and an abiding commitment to life and the family.  When this  coalition breaks down, when any one of the three “legs” of the stool  break, we lose.  And lose big.  In 2008 we nominated a national security  conservative who knew very little about the economy (and was  dangerously prone to ineffectual bouts of populist outrage), seemed to  enjoy skewering fellow Republicans, and held many religious voters in  near-contempt.  In the next primary season, we must choose better.

But there’s more than that. Above all else, the president has to lead — he has to be a good executive.  Fortunately, Governor Romney has been a leader longer than he has been a politician. Prior to his political career, Governor Romney helped to launch the very successful Bain Capital — which helped launch such successful franchises as Staples and the Sports Authority — and then led a turnaround at Bain Consulting. He also saved the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City which, prior to his leadership, were mired in debt and corruption but subsequently became one of the most successfully-run Games in memory.

And he’s governed in a difficult political environment, too. Massachusetts is the most left-wing state in the union. If you think Bay State Democrats aren’t any different from their Arkansas or Alabama or Tennessee counterparts, try defending traditional marriage or vetoing stem-cell funding up in Boston, as Governor Romney did, and see what they do. But Governor Romney did — in addition to helping turn the economy around, opposing driver’s licenses and in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, and defending Catholic Charities’ right to restrict adoptions to man-woman couples. No other candidate has a record of such successful, across-the-board conservative leadership—especially on such hostile terrain.

Summing It All Up

Mitt Romney has been a standout conservative governor of a very liberal state. He believes in the traditional family, and he has fought for it — just ask Massachusetts’ pro-family leaders. He’s admitted he was wrong on abortion, and is now solidly pro-life — as his record in Massachusetts testifies. He also opposes embryonic stem cell research’s speculative and open-ended carelessness with human life. He’s shown courage under fire in several challenging situations, and has lived out his values (both publicly and privately) during a time when other Republicans, sadly, have not.

In addition, we challenge our readers — friendly or hostile — to  name one national political leader on either side of the aisle with a  better record of business and economic leadership than Mitt Romney.  We  do not know what the economy will be like in 2012, but if it’s anything  like it is today, who would you want at the helm?  The former community  organizer we have today?  Or the founder of Bain Capital, the man who  rescued the Salt Lake City Olympics, and the Governor who brought a  state back from the brink of bankruptcy?

In other words, he’s not just a man evangelicals can support — he’s the best choice for people of faith. It’s not even close.