Groups: Pastors Have Right to Speak on ‘Political’ Issues

From Jennifer Riley and Christian Post.

“Pastors have the legal right to speak on “political” issues during the 2008 elections without jeopardizing their churches’ tax-exempt status, declared a group of prominent Christian ministries and religious freedom organizations.

Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America, and the James Madison Center for Free Speech issued a letter to pastors nationwide on Monday informing them of their right to speak on social issues.

“For too long pastors have been led to believe in the myth that Christian leaders must be censored on politically-related issues,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, in a statement.

“As the 2008 election season bears down on us, an election that will impact key concerns of the Christian community, religious leaders need to know they have a right to be actively engaged and should not fall for false threats that they will lose their tax-exempt status,” she added.

The joint letter, “Constitutional Protections for Pastors: Your Freedom to Speak Biblical Truth on the Moral Issues of the Day,” provides legal guidelines for pastors when speaking on social issues.

It also responds to misleading information sent to churches from groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“The remote possibility of the loss of tax-exempt status is used by those hostile to people of faith to chill their right to free speech and to silence them in their own churches,” said Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Gary McCaleb.

“This letter is designed to encourage pastors and churches by providing them with the facts concerning their freedom to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech on the important moral issues that impact their communities,” he added.

The educational letter also helps pastors understand their right to speak on social topics and their members’ right to sign petitions supporting moral issues.

“America faces a moral free-fall, and some would hurry it along with the threat of government sanctions against Christians who dare to speak out on critical issues,” concluded Wright.

“But the First Amendment protects the freedom of religion, not government restriction of religion. Religion and morality are foundational to America’s success and Christian leaders would neglect their duty if they allow themselves to be silenced by empty threats.”

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