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The majority of folks in the US do not support clergy endorsing political candidates from the pulpit

The majority of folks in the US do not support clergy endorsing political candidates from the pulpit

LifeWay Research is an Evangelical-leaning research organization based in Nashville TN. LifeWay occasionally polls the US population on various connections between politics and religion. In it’s most recent poll it asked folks how they felt about clergy endorsing specific candidates in religious services. As the pie chart above indicates, 79% of the US population polled in a telephone survey of 1000 people in SEP 2015 felt that it was inappropriate for clergy to endorse candidates from the pulpit.

Americans already argue about politics enough outside the church. They don’t want pastors bringing those arguments into worship,” LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a written statement.

That figure has dropped since a poll in 2008 when 89% of the US population felt candidate endorsements during services were inappropriate. The Christian group which most approved of this type of endorsement were Evangelicals.

  • Self-identified Evangelical 27%
  • Express evangelical beliefs 25%
  • Protestants as a whole 20%
  • Catholics 13%
  • Other religion 18%
  • No religious preference 21%

The Republican Party has a plank in its party platform for this 2016 election season to repeal the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment made it illegal for religious organizations to endorse political candidates. Republican candidate for US president, Donald Trump has stated that his administration would allow religious organizations to endorse political candidates without losing their tax-exemption.

Facts for this story were gathered from an article by Emily McFarlan Miller.




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Curt Zimmerman

Any congregation/pastor risks losing the 501(c)3 IRS tax exempt status if any candidate is advocated. It’s OK to take a stand on ballot issues, but not candidates. And the IRS does prosecute!

Dana Lockhart

Actually, I think it is safer to say that the IRS does everything it can to AVOID revoking the tax exempt status of congregations.

Consider that:

1. A conservative legal group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, has organized “Pulpit Freedom Sundays” since 2008. Over 2,000 pastors have publicly and intentionally preached sermons DESIGNED to trigger IRS action in the hopes of generating a “test case” where the Supreme Court would rule the Johnson Amendment unconstitutional (although, since Scalia’s passing, this seems to be on hold).

2. An atheist group, The Freedom from Religion Foundation, was so outraged over the lack of IRS enforcement that they actually sued the IRS for not revoking churches tax exempt status, especially those churches that publicly broadcasted that they were doing so deliberately.

3. That in supporting the GOP party platform’s call for repealing the Johnson Amendment, evangelical leaders have pointed to the fact that the amendment is not enforced. Jerry Falwell Jr. told Time earlier this year, “The law is a farce, it is not enforced, and it is time for it to go.”

So, as a Lutheran pastor, if I were to make a “Top 10” list of the reasons why preachers should not endorse candidates from the pulpit, “jeopardizing the congregation’s tax exempt status” wouldn’t be any higher than number 10.

It is always amazing to me how quickly this conversation becomes about taxes, rather than the fact that overtly partisan sermons violate our theological understandings as Christians of what a sermon is, what it does and who it is about. We should be far more concerned about what God thinks of a sermon than the IRS…

Clergy should not endorse candidates from the pulpit because doing so is an abuse of the pulpit.

Paul Woodrum

It’s rather fun being an urban Democrat preaching in a suburban, Republican majority, congregation. I would never advocate voting for a particular candidate by name but one does want to be current and relevant in interpreting the Gospel. Take Jesus’ recent teaching on humility, for example. How tempting! But, as the Warden says, I come right up to the line, but never cross it.


Please follow the comment policy and post with your first & last names. -ed

We went to a church with a priest that let it be known very loudly what his political leanings were. Which just happened to be opposite of his congregation. He made his disdain for their point of view quite apparent. It ewas not a good situation, he spent more time preaching politics than faith.

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