The History of America’s Pulpits


Read these examples from sermons of pastors speaking freely before the Johnson Amendment.

History of the Johnson Amendment

Today, the IRS can use the Johnson Amendment to tell pastors what they can and cannot preach. This law aims to censor your sermon if the IRS labels it “political.”

Why should the IRS have control of your pulpit?

The IRS doesn’t feed the hungry. The IRS doesn’t comfort the hurting. And the IRS definitely doesn’t heal the broken. A pastor’s pulpit should be accountable to God alone, and the future of religious freedom
in America depends on it.

It’s time to put an end to the Johnson Amendment.

“Government is asking us to render unto Caesar what properly belongs to God, and we can’t do that.”

–Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, PA

“The Bible says render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. But Caesar is demanding more and more of what was once considered God’s matter.”

-Dr. Jim Garlow, Skyline Church, La Mesa, CA

“Today we violate our IRS regulations because we believe we need a free pulpit.”

–Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., Hope Christian Church, Beltsville, MD

“In order to promote their ideas over ours, they tell us we must stay in our churches, keep our religion to ourselves, and that their idea of separation of the church from the state trumps any ideas we might have.”

-Father Richard Perozich, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Escondido, CA

“Our political issues are informed by our theology. There is no such thing as a politician or political issue that is not theological. You cannot do politics without theology.”

-Pastor Voddie Baucham, Grace Family Baptist Church, Spring, TX

“Decisions about what is preached from the pulpit of a church should not belong to the government, but to the individual pastor and the church itself.”

Dr. Wayne Grudem, Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, AZ


Over 3500 Pastors agree

The Johnson Amendment must end

2,032 pastors have preached election sermons since 2008

Pastors nationwide are signing up now to preach election sermons in 2014

Join the Movement

Your sermon will speak to your congregation. Your participation will speak to the nation.

The IRS continues to threaten that it will decide what can be said from America’s pulpits. There are two ways to stop this: Congress fixes it, or courts strike it down.

Pastors can make a difference by doing one
or both:

Sign the Agreement Statement – Help Congress end IRS control over America’s pulpits

The signatures of faith leaders across the nation brings unprecedented awareness to our leaders in Congress that this is a non-partisan, multi-faith, winning issue that they must make right (see how).

Sign up to Preach an Election Sermon – Help us challenge the Johnson Amendment in court

When you sign up to preach an election sermon, you are doing what the Constitution has always protected, and if the IRS chooses to use the Johnson Amendment against you, contact us. We’ve been waiting to take it to court.


I agree that the IRS should not control a pastor’s sermon. The Johnson Amendment must end.
I agree to preach an election sermon on October 5 as part of this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

In 1954, the U.S. Congress amended (without debate or analysis) Internal Revenue Code §501(c)(3) to restrict the speech of non-profit, tax-exempt entities–including churches.  Before the amendment passed, there were no restrictions on church speech concerning government and voting, with the exception of a 1934 law preventing non-profits from using a substantial part of their resources to lobby for legislation.
The 1954 amendment, offered by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, stated that non-profit tax-exempt entities could not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.”  Since the amendment passed, the IRS has steadfastly maintained that any speech by churches that the IRS could construe as supporting or opposing candidates for government office, including sermons from the pulpit, can result in loss of tax exemption.
Historically, churches frequently and fervently spoke for and against candidates for government office. Such sermons date from the founding of America, including sermons against Thomas Jefferson for being a deist; sermons opposing William Howard Taft as a Unitarian; and sermons opposing Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election.  Churches have also been at the forefront of most of the significant societal and governmental changes in our history including ending segregation and child labor, and advancing civil rights.
After the amendment, churches faced a choice: speak freely on all issues addressed by Scripture and potentially risk their tax exemption, or remain silent and protect their tax exemption.  Unfortunately, many churches have allowed the 1954 Johnson amendment to silence their speech, even from the pulpit.  Ironically, after 60-plus years of strict interpretation by the IRS, there is no reported situation to date where a church lost its tax-exempt status or was punished for sermons delivered from the pulpit.  Nonetheless, the law remains unchanged, and many churches continue to default to the IRS’s interpretation of the Code and remain silent.
Alliance Defending Freedom firmly believes that the Johnson amendment unconstitutionally restricts speech by censoring the content of a pastor’s sermon.  Pulpit Freedom Sunday is designed to restore freedom to the pulpit by allowing pastors to speak out on important issues of the day.
There are many reasons why the 1954 Johnson amendment violates the Constitution.  Here are some of the key reasons why the amendment is unconstitutional:
 The amendment violates the Establishment Clause by requiring the government to excessively and pervasively monitor the speech of churches to ensure they are not transgressing the restriction in the amendment.  The amendment allows the government to determine when truly religious speech becomes impermissibly “political.”  The government has no business making such decisions.
 The amendment violates the Free Speech Clause because it requires the government to discriminate against speech based solely on the content of the speech.  In other words, some speech is allowed, but other speech is not.  The Supreme Court has invalidated this type of speech discrimination for decades.

Alliance Defending Freedom 8-15-14

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