See the picture above? These are American clergy gathered to confirm their commitment as a new “Black Robe Regiment.” I see what I hope is an Orthodox clergyman in front. I’d love to know who it is and give them credit! Please read the following article on the importance of this event for Churches and especially for Preachers. And yes, I am a member of the Black Robe Regiment. You can be too. In the words of the Scriptures and quoted in the Manhattan Declaration, we will gladly render to Caesar that which is Caesar, but we will NEVER render to Caesar that which is God’s.
Finally, my real question – why aren’t there more black robes?
This Sunday marks a critical event in America. It is Pulpit Freedom Sunday. In case you or others you may know are undecided about participating, let me give you five very good reasons why your participation is so important.
After considering these reasons, the next step is to go to the Black Robe Regiment, or Pulpitfreedom.org and sign up. You may even decide to send this information to five or ten of your pastor friends and urge them to sign up, as well. It’s time this movement of bold pastors sweeps the nation.
1. The issues the country is facing are biblical issues. Pastors, more than many others, are uniquely suited to speak to the issues confronting the country in this election season. Issues such as life, marriage, the family, the economy, the poor, and many others are addressed specifically in scripture. The effect of the Johnson Amendment has been to make these biblical issues “political,” as if slapping a “political” label on an issue somehow removes it from the purview of scripture. For example, a pastor preaching a sermon thirty years ago that abortion is wrong was just being biblical. But that same sermon today is labeled as political and, as a result, the pastor is sidelined into silence. It’s not that the church is somehow becoming “political.” It’s that politics is invading the realm of the church.
2. The free exercise of religion requires a free pulpit. The First Amendment prohibits the government from enacting laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. A pastor preaching a sermon from the pulpit is one of the core activities of the free exercise of religion. A law, like the Johnson Amendment, that prohibits pastors from speaking freely from the pulpit violates the free exercise of religion. How can the exercise of religion be free if your church is subject to fines and penalties for something you as a pastor say from the pulpit?
3. Every church and pastor has the right to decide what is preached from their pulpit. Pastors and churches should decide for themselves what is preached from the pulpit. The IRS should have no power to insert itself into that decision-making process. But since the adoption of the Johnson Amendment in 1954, the IRS has done just that. Pulpit Freedom Sunday removes the government from the pulpits and churches of America.
4. The Johnson Amendment is blatantly unconstitutional. Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a head-on constitutional challenge to the Johnson Amendment, which is blatantly unconstitutional. This unjust law, which never should have been applied to churches and pastors, has had a devastating effect on their constitutionally protected rights. Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a strategic initiative to remove this unjust law and restore a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit.
5. America needs to hear from pastors. Pastors in America have a rich tradition of speaking prophetically and boldly from their pulpits on the great issues of the day. The voice of America’s pastors led the way through independence, slavery, civil rights, and have even influenced which men and women we put into public office. But because of the Johnson Amendment, the voice of pastors is unjustly silenced every election cycle. It’s time for America’s pastors to become part of the process again and to stop being sidelined by an unconstitutional law.
As pastors, you have a decision to make – do you want to have the ability to speak freely on all issues the Bible addresses, or do you want to let the IRS and culture define for you what is permissible for you to address?
Pulpit Freedom Sunday frees pastors to make that decision for themselves.