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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fundagelical Gut Check: Willing to Extend Political Pulpit Speech to All Non-Profits?

Here's a hypothetical gut check for Gordon Howie, who's still beating the drum for pastors to throw off the oppression of the IRS and endorse political candidates from their pulpits:

I know a number of good people who work at non-profit organizations like the South Dakota Resources Coalition, Dakota Rural Action, the Sierra Club, and Repower America. They all have their principles and political beliefs. They can identify certain political candidates who would support the principles and goals of their organizations if elected. Yet they share with Gordon Howie's church the same 501(c)3 status that, under the infamous Johnson Amendment of 1954, prevents their involvement in political candidates' campaigns.

So I'm just wondering: When Gordon Howie stumps for the First Amendment rights of pastors to endorse conservatives and theocrats from the pulpit, is he also campaigning for the rights of my friends in the non-profit world to endorse candidates who fit their principles, from their "pulpits," on their non-profit time and letterhead?

Goose, gander—discuss.


  1. At the risk of sounding like I'm speaking for Howie here (I'm not, but I think he would probably agree with what I'm about to say), I think his efforts and the efforts of the rest of us who believe the same way would indirectly support the same freedom for your Leftist friends.

    Before Lydon Johnson's 1954 self-serving political amendment to the tax code, all non profits enjoyed unpenalized freedom to speak for against issues and candidates. There is no constitutional reason they should not continue to do so.

  2. Bob, you'll probably see Gordon before I do. Ask him. Let me know what he says.

    Your interpretation appears to square with mine. I wonder: are there any movements comparable to the Pulpit Freedom push and gestures like Howie's coming from non-church non-profit groups?

  3. I agree with Bob. I'm for giving greater speech freedom to all.

    But, I do have a small technical point: I don't think these are matters directly linked. Only indirectly/tangentially. Lefty or righty tax exempt group are a creation of the IRS via Congress and their free speech rights are distinct from that related to freedom of religion. Not quite apples and oranges.

  4. Troy makes a good point.
    If a congregation truly believes that electing a particular candidate is a manifestation of their beliefs, then it very well could be a matter of freedom of religion. IE. the Mormons in 1844.

  5. I'm deep in the middle of a home improvement project that's sucking up every spare moment, so I may not see Gordon for a while, but I'll try to remember to ask him next time I run across him.

    Regards your second paragraph, I'm not aware of any non-church nonprofit efforts on this issue, though it would certainly be in their freedom-interest to come alongside the ADF in the effort. As they say, politics can make strange bedfellows, sometimes. :-)


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