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October 1, 2012

USA Today: Keep pulpit politicking out of our churches

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

For the past several years, a number of clergy people have taken the pulpit once a year to decry the Internal Revenue Service’s prohibition on “politicking” from the pulpit. Simply put, no pastor is allowed to stand up in a pulpit (or on a stage if a church doesn’t have a pulpit) and endorse a political candidate.

If a clergy person does stand and endorse a candidate, that specific church could lose its tax exempt status.

Some clergy people feel this is goes against the First Amendment’s guarantee of a person’s freedom of speech. While understanding their complaints, I have asked the question — why does a clergy person need to endorse a political candidate in the first place?

We clergy people, in terms of being a member of the LCMS, are entrusted to bring Christ to God’s children, not to endorse a candidate for local mayor or council, governor, or even president. We bring Christ, not politics, to the pulpit. 

If someone wants to know my political leanings, sure, come ask me. But bringing my politics to the pulpit, sorry, that isn’t happening.

Will I speak about abortion from the pulpit or from the altar during prayers? Of course since it is a religious and moral issue. Will I stand and preach about the extension of the Bush tax cuts? You’ll be waiting a long time for me to mention that during a sermon.

While I do not believe the government should be telling clergy people what to say in the pulpit and thus threatening to punish churches if their clergy people don’t conform, what I feel more strongly is that clergy people should leave their politics out of the pulpit.

Rabbi Gerald Zelizer writes in this morning’s USA Today:

Regardless, my colleagues should stop flaunting their political muscles. Doing so gets us and our churches into hazardous territory.

Sure, definitions of marriage, life and death in the public sphere have moral and religious nuances. But diving into politics also brings bargaining, trade-offs and compromises, which are a part of politics. What we gain politically, we will lose morally.

Rabbi Gerald and I agree.

Column: Keep pulpit politicking out of our churches: “”

(Via USA Today.)


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