Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

October 5, 2012

Clerical Error? Local pastors question wisdom of pulpit politics


As Pulpit Freedom Sunday approaches, some local pastors say they have mixed feelings about its objectives. The event — which takes place this weekend — was created by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an evangelical Christian organization, in 2008. The initiative encourages pastors to preach about campaign and election issues in violation of an IRS mandate restricting religious organizations from engaging in such communications.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has encouraged pastors to contact them for legal counsel if their political speech comes under IRS scrutiny. Rev. R.G. Ericson, pastor of First Christian Church, said ministry leaders should avoid speaking on campaign issues unless they and their organizations are willing to accept the penalty for doing so.

“If pastors do choose to speak out in violation of those IRS requirements, I think that the consequences for any kind of civil disobedience are that you have to deal with the ramifications,” Ericson, 63, said. “The churches pay no income tax. If they want to start paying taxes on their income, they can speak out the way any other business person can speak out.”

Restrictions on church — and other nonprofit — political communications were enacted by Congress in 1954. Lawmakers feared people who donated money to nonprofit organizations might end up getting tax rebates on charitable contributions that were ostensibly political if the recipient organizations were heavily involved with campaigns. Rev. Tom Moore, pastor of First Church of the Nazarene, decried the IRS rules and said churches should be able to maintain their tax-exemptions while espousing political ideas. But he said even if churches had that prerogative, that doesn't mean they should use it.

“It's not appropriate, to me, to do it. I think some people ought to be allowed to do it if they believe that's what they should do, but I could not or would not do it” Moore, 68, said.

Darwin Wood, pastor of Central Baptist Church, also supported the idea of political-free speech for churches while being ambivalent about its application.

“I agree with the concept, but politics are limited to time and space and we as humans are eternal. I won't be spending precious time from the pulpit talking about politics.”

Local pastors said it's appropriate for ministry leaders to discuss issues of voter concern, so long as they don't endorse a particular candidate or party. That idea is consistent with the IRS guidelines for nonprofit organizations. Ministries are allowed to take stances on political matters that don't affect elections for public office. Moore used his preaching platform to denounce Proposition 2 — a ballot item ultimately approved by voters two years ago — which liberalized alcohol-sales laws in Jacksonville. Rev. Kenneth D. Cain, of Benson Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, said pastors should play a role in educating congregation members about civic issues while avoiding partisanship.

“The church has to deal with the total person. That's why political issues would be relevant to the congregation,” Cain, 54, said. “You just don't deal with the faith of the people, you have to deal with the health of the people as well.”

Wood said pastors should be considerate of the philosophical diversity that might exist throughout their pews.

“If I talked about politics, I would be stirring up a huge hornet's nest in my church because we have people of all political stripes here. I wouldn't want to polarize people,” Wood said.

Joel McMahon, pastor of First United Methodist Church, also said ministry leaders should approach politics with the outmost sensitivity.

“I think that a pastor should be able to speak to issues and as anything they need to be thoughtful in how they approach those issues,” McMahon, 44, said. “As for me, Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a non-issue.”

Moore feared that partisan politics are having a hindering effect on the core mission of churches.

“I think politics are an absolute distraction. Churches and religious leaders have gotten much too involved in it. It doesn't make any eternal difference and it creates barriers to reaching people.

“If you take a strong political stand that this party or that party is the only party that Christians can support, then you've put a barrier between you and someone with a different opinion and that makes ministering to them more difficult,” Moore said. “I don't think that's a wise thing to do.”

Text Only
Local News
  • Christian Rapper 0419.tif Local rap artist spreads the 411 on Jesus

    "I have seen things in my life that would make Dr. Phil crazy," Jacksonville native, ordained minister and aspiring rap artist Stephen I. Crow Jr. said with a laugh. "That's why I don't label my music specifically as "Christian rap" -- yes, Christians who love rap can listen and hopefully be uplifted, but I truly want and am trying to bring the word and Jesus' message to people who may never have heard it or don't believe it's for them.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tomato Bowl flushed to bottom of priorities

    The historic Tomato Bowl, built in 1940, stands strong on the outside, but according to some people the inside needs a lot of work in order to not be an eyesore.

    April 19, 2014

  • Cherokee County arrest: April 8-14

    The Daily Progress will publish a list of arrests from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office on a weekly basis.

    April 19, 2014

  • Jacksonville College, high schools team up to offer dual credit program

    Jacksonville College is currently offering qualifying high school juniors and seniors attending Jacksonville and New Summerfield ISDs and The Brookhill School in Bullard the opportunity to get head start on their higher education.

    April 18, 2014

  • JISD board members to consider district strategic plan

    The Jacksonville ISD Board of Trustees will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 21, to discuss a district strategic plan and consider buying new band uniforms.

    April 18, 2014

  • 2 men arrested after standoff in grocery store

    Two men were arrested early Wednesday morning after a standoff at the B&B Foods in Alto.
    According to Alto Police Chief Jeremy Jackson, a person reported seeing two black males at the store just before 3 a.m. Wednesday.

    April 17, 2014

  • Some area entities closed for holiday

    Many area offices and businesses will be closed Friday in observance of Good Friday and Easter.

    April 17, 2014

  • Dispatcher Enge 0416.tif JPD dispatcher killed in wreck

    A dispatcher for the Jacksonville Police Department was killed Monday on her way to work, according to officials.
    Amber Enge, 35, of Whitehouse was pronounced dead at the scene of a one-vehicle wreck Monday afternoon on CR 2177 in Whitehouse.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • CR speed limit changes, E-filling fee top agenda

    On Monday, Cherokee County commissioners set April 28 to hold public hearings concerning the changing speed limits on two county roads.

    April 16, 2014

  • Catherine look.tif Religious lines drawn: Protesters met by members of Church of Wells

    Other than a few community members' voices that rose above the crowd, the protest Saturday against the Church of Wells remained peaceful.

    April 15, 2014 3 Photos