Pastors, Churches and the First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (First Amendment to the Unites States Constitution, ratified December 15, 1791)

When Senator Lyndon Johnson pushed an amendment to the IRS code threatening pastors or churches who got involved in politics, it’s results were that many pastors and churches thought they voices were silenced to speak out on political matters.  When the prophetic voice of pulpits were silent out of fear of retaliation public consensus has been the church is supposed to be quiet about these issues.  How quickly we forget our Constitutional rights and then forfeit those rights by our ignorance or intimidation.  Country and Church have been the poorer for it.

We expect to hear from lawyers, doctors, teachers, union leaders, etc. when any legislation is going to be considered that affects us.  We should expect to hear as well from pastors and churches in the public debate.  Frankly, I can’t think of anything that the church or a pastor should not be able to freely address.  I can think of many things that are being debated that I wouldn’t waste my time addressing.  But it should be the decision of the pastor or the church without fear of reprisal from the government; punishing the pastor or the church for speaking out for the weak, oppressed, and especially those without a voice.

Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (Acts 20:26-27, NIV)

Here are just a few areas as pastor I must be willing to proclaim the whole will of God.

The Protection of Life National Defense
Marriage Foreign Policy
Family Freedom of Speech
Economics Freedom of Religion
Creation Care Health Issues (Aids, Birth Defects, Cancer, Aging)

Which means congregations and their pastors must be informed and once again develop rich Biblical and cultural resources from which to draw upon in the public conversation.  It’s not just enough for a pastor to preach from his pulpit.  Hopefully the pastor will stimulate thought, inform the mind, and develop discernment in the life of those listening so that the Starbucks, the water cooler, Facebook chats, blog-a-sphere, break room, classroom, and school bus will be abuzz with wisdom.

Tomorrow, Civility starts with all of us!

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