BY KRISTI REED
Pastor Jody Hice of Bethlehem First Baptist Church is attempting to do something most people try to avoid – get the attention of the Internal Revenue Service.
Hice is one of 33 pastors nationwide who participated in last month’s “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an organized effort to fight what Hice and others view as the government’s infringement on pastors’ rights to free speech.
A 1954 act, known as the Johnson Amendment, prohibits churches from endorsing political candidates. Failure to comply can mean the loss of a church’s tax-exempt status.
Hice said the amendment was created after Lyndon Johnson was accused of being soft on communism by several religious organizations during a senate race. When Johnson got to Washington, he had the amendment added to the IRS regulations, Hice explained.
“It was unconstitutional then and it’s unconstitutional now,” Hice said.
To protest the amendment, Hice recently delivered a sermon in which he endorsed presidential candidate John McCain.
Hice is quick to point out that he made the endorsement, not the church.
“Then again, it wasn’t really so much my endorsement as it was a Biblical endorsement,” he said.
After comparing the candidates’ positions on two major moral issues - the sanctity of life and the definition of marriage - Hice determined that McCain’s platform more closely matched the teachings of the Bible.
“Based upon what the candidates themselves say on those issues and what the Bible says on those issues, I made an endorsement based on the one whose positions were more closely aligned to the scripture,” he said.
Hice felt it was important to present the Biblical teachings on the moral issues to his congregation and said the sermon was not centered around endorsing one candidate over the other.
“The whole issue comes down to the right of pastors to speak Biblical truth from the pulpit without fear of punishment,” he said.
According to Hice, the IRS has created a climate of threat and intimidation intended to limit what pastors can and cannot say.
“It’s a First Amendment issue,” he said. “We have a climate where the government is literally hijacking the pulpits of America and dictating what can and cannot be said.”
Hice said he is not trying to turn the church into a political action committee and is not raising money for any candidate or party.
“We’re just simply addressing moral issues that the candidates themselves are talking about – addressing those issues from a Biblical perspective, connecting the dots and drawing conclusions,” he said.
For more on this story, see the October 29 edition of The Barrow Journal.
Yes, and Barrow County Joint Dev Authority helped the church's school with bonds that provided a lower interest rate than going to local banks. So, government involvement when convenient? Sure seems that way.
It is a shame Pastor Hice or no one from his congregation comes on this website. Do you think no response is an indication that his group enjoys government help we convenient? Sure would like to hear from someone involved with the church on this topic related to the county providing access to better interest rates using bonds floated by the Joint Dev Authority.
DuWayne R. Anderson
10/30/08 at 09:50 AM
I want to commend you and the other Pastors for this effort. Pastors are human beings, not machines. I believe as you do that John McCain and Sarah Palin are the right choice for America!
It is clear that the law is unconstitutional and should be challenged!
DuWayne R. Anderson
Republican Supporter for McCain/Palin for President and Vice-President of the United States.
If he wants to endorse candidates from his pulpit - fine! Pay up the taxes buddy! Religion should not interfere with government and government should not interfere with religion. If you merge the two there will be trouble.
I attend the church and I think he does a great job what he had to say is non of anybody concern that does not attend our church. Soooooo I guess you have no leg to stand on in this debate. If you like blasting men of GOD then dont do it where people can read cause all it does is start fights and conflicts.