Pastors and Churches: Legal Do’s and Don’ts

Since 1954, churches have been told that they can no longer be as actively involved in the political process as they were before the Johnson Amendment.  Previously, pastors and churches financially supported and endorsed candidates while instructing the congregants on which candidate Christians should vote for and why.  That ended when a para-church organization criticized then Senatorial candidate Lyndon B. Johnson for being a morally unworthy candidate.  After his election, he made sure that religious organizations would no longer participate in the process by amending a spending bill.  The decision to remove the church’s voice from politics was never debated.

Unfortunately, Christians have walked away from politics and political engagement, much to the detriment of this nation.  Jerry Falwell, Sr. attempted to bring morality back to center stage with Moral Majority and the election of Ronald Reagan but as Falwell stated, “When Christians loose elections, we quit.  When Christians win elections, we quit.”  The absence of a strong church presence and the lies being declared about a church’s involvement in the political process help keep pastors and churches intimidated, fearful, and silent.

What can churches and pastors do?

First of all, churches and pastors must always recognize that biblical truth came long before political truth.  Even if Hollywood, MSM, social networks, and others declare something to be politically correct does not negate the Bible’s statements to the contrary.  The Bible is the authority and what the Word declares is true even when others call it hate speech, bigoted, and any other kind of phobia.  Preaching anything biblical that has been labeled political is not illegal and appropriate and culturally responsible for pastors.

While churches cannot endorse or financially support a candidate, a pastor certainly is able to and can use his title and the church’s name for identification purposes.  When it comes to legislation, a church can use approximately 10% of the time lobbying for a particular bill.  For instance, a pastor is full time.  Everyone knows that his active involvement is more than a 40-hour week but he can lobby, make phone calls, and ask for legislation that will assist his church four hours per week or 10%.

Pastors and churches should use voter guides to describe candidates, their positions, and previous voting record. Additionally, churches should conduct candidate forums by inviting all who are on the ballot to address the congregation.  It does not matter if not every candidate attends, all were invited.  register voters, arrange transportation to precincts as needed by members, ask candidates to share their testimony during a church service, and encourage members of the congregation to run for office.   

What else can churches do?

What can’t churches do?

Pastors, while shepherds of their churches, are also citizens with civic rights and duties. Are pastors required to turn in their individual rights to engage in political activity? No, pastors are allowed in their individual capacity to engage in more extensive political activities, but not in their official capacity.

What can pastors do as individuals?

What can pastors do in their official capacity?

What can’t pastors do in their official capacity?


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