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  • Writer's pictureSteven Chapman

Preachers and Politics

There is a somewhat common misconception about political talk, talk that considers an influential vocation is (or should be) excluded from the conversation.

Some people have fallen for a myth that preachers, pastors, or whatever you call a vocational professional that serves in the ministry cannot engage in conversation that critiques serving political leaders (or personally voices their support of particular candidates).

It’s become common to see memes and posts that say Preachers should have to pay taxes if they are going to talk politics. News Flash: Preachers pay taxes!

Now consider ministers have had a long and lofty role in American politics throughout. history. Preachers served as representatives in the Continental Congresses. One preacher served as President. Further, preachers have lended their voices to some of the most important cultural-transforming political moments in history.

It is true that ministers in an official capacity are restricted by the IRS from supporting particular parties or politicians. This prohibition of preachers and churches campaigning for parties and candidates was made law by the Johnson Amendment in the mid 1950s. Violation may result in rescending the 501(c)3 tax-exempt status of the church in which the minister serves or spoke (an action which has only happened once in 60 years).

However, the Johnson Amendment does not extend to forums in which a minister is not speaking in an official capacity as a representative of the church, but as a citizen. Preachers are people, and history has shown what they have to add to the conversations that occur around politics are as valuable as doctors and dog catchers, journalists and junk collectors.

The other fallacy that has led to the preacher don’t talk politics myth is the misinterpretation of the Jeffersonian doctrine of the separation of church and state, a phrase that is absent from the Constitution. It occurs in a letter to a Baptist church by Jefferson that states the church did not need fear the federal government due to the constitutional protections which guaranteed the government could not interfere with churches.

Only in the 20th century was the second amendment flipped on its head from a protection for the church from state intervention to protection for the political from church involvement.

Jefferson never foresaw the time when his obscure statement in a private letter would become a phrase used to gag the church and preachers.

— Pastor Steve


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