.- A coalition of political organizations have joined together to support American churches and pastors who fear legal harassment for speaking out about election issues.
Concerned Women for America, the Alliance Defense Fund, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and the James Madison Center for Free Speech have issued a nationwide letter informing pastors of their legal rights to address political issues and to encourage their parishioners to sign petitions without jeopardizing their churches' tax-exempt status.
The letter "Constitutional Protections for Pastors: Your Freedom to Speak Biblical Truth on the Moral Issues of the Day," available at www.cwfa.org, provides to pastors and churches legal guidelines for political speech and speech that can be construed as political. The letter supplements a Concerned Women for America brochure titled "Political Guidelines for Churches and Pastors."
The information is intended to counter organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which have allegedly distributed misleading information seeking to intimidate religious organizations addressing social issues. Some groups also file harassing complaints with the IRS to threaten religious groups with burdensome investigations of their tax-exempt status.
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, used the announcement of the letter to encourage a robust religious freedom: "For too long pastors have been led to believe in the myth that Christian leaders must be censored on politically-related issues... religious leaders need to know they have a right to be actively engaged and should not fall for false threats that they will lose their tax-exempt status."
Ms. Wright continued: "...the First Amendment protects the freedom of religion, not government restriction of religion. Religion and morality are foundational to America's success and Christian leaders would neglect their duty if they allow themselves to be silenced by empty threats."