'Politics and the Pulpit' Seminar to Counter Threats on Tax Exemption Statuses

Rev. Jerry Falwell will be holding a seminar to educate pastors on the dos and don’ts of speaking on political issues in the church.
( [email protected] ) Aug 07, 2004 05:04 PM EDT

Even though many civil liberties groups questioned his ministry’s tax exemption status after he endorsed the president’s re-election in his newsletter, Rev. Jerry Falwell wants assure pastors that they can address political issues in the church without violating their church tax exemption status.

In an August 4 newsletter, Falwell announced the date for “Politics and the Pulpit,” a seminar that will train pastors and church leaders how to properly engage in politics without being “intimidated by left-wing thugs.”

The Campaign Legal Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State claim in reports to the Internal Revenue Services that Falwell broke the law when he suggested in his column that conservative Christians almost exclusively favor President Bush in the re-election.

Falwell is not the only case in which churches are being threatened of losing their tax exemption status this election season. An Arkansas pastor has also been targeted by the ACSCS for allegedly urging for President Bush’s re-election. MAINstream Coalition is sending spies into Kansas churches to monitor if pastors preach about politics in their sermons.

"We're going to be careful not to break the law, but we are also going to be careful not to be intimidated by left-wing thugs, not to let them intimidate evangelical pastors into silence," Falwell said.

"Because this is an election year and because of the controversy over the right of churches to be involved in moral and social issues, we will have constitutional attorneys there to explain to pastors what they may and may not do," Falwell told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The seminar will be hosted by Mathew Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Council, a national public law interest firm involved in over 30 of the 40 same-sex cases filed in the country. Attendants will meet at Falwell’s school, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., from Sept. 26-29. Rick Warren, author of New York Times’ best-selling “The Purpose-Driven Life,” will be a featured speaker.

Staver had recently said, “Churches and other communities of faith should and must vocally and actively support the preservation of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and must confront the culture by standing on our biblical foundations.”

According to Staver, there has never been a church that has lost its tax exemption status because of mentioning politics.

Although Falwell’s "Old Time Gospel Hour" television ministry paid $50,000 back in taxes in 1993 for political activity in 1986 and 1987, he later regained the ministry's tax exemption status.

“Pastors may endorse political legislation as long as such lobbying activities do not constitute more than a substantial past of their overall activities,” wrote Falwell in a newsletter responding to his allegations.

During the seminar, speakers will also examine the successful church mass participation in the July 11th “Marriage Protection Sunday,” in churches nationwide urged their congregants to call on their Senators to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. The same day, evangelical leaders also spoke on the issue during a broadcasted “Battle for Marriage” simulcast that reached over a million viewers.

For more information on the seminar, visit: http://www.superconference.us.