June 15, 2024

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June 15, 2024

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Trusted Church Leader Defies Johnson Amendment, Urges Pastors To Biblically Instruct On Political Issues

As the United States is engulfed in a mid-term election year, Jack Hibbs, Senior Pastor and Founder of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, and congressional candidate for California’s 49th district, Josiah O’Neil, teamed up to urge pastors to break their silence on politics from the pulpit. 

In a powerful interview, Hibbs and O’Neil called on the pulpits to “wake up and get engaged” by Biblically addressing both candidates and cultural issues within their churches.

“People are looking for leadership and inspiration, and frankly, it shouldn’t come from a politician; it should come from the pulpits,” O’Neil underscored.

Unfortunately, self-censoring pulpits have left many Christians ill-equipped, Hibbs and O’Neil asserted. Many Pastors have used the Johnson Amendment as a cover to justify their refusal to Biblically inform congregants about political issues.

The Johnson amendment, they underscore, not only flies in the face of the first amendment but is shrouded with misconceptions that have driven numerous preachers to remain silent.

Despite its heavy emphasis on targetting churches today, O’Neil explained that the Johnson Amendment’s initial focus was not the pulpits.

In 1954 then-senator Lyndon B Johnson sought to amend the tax code after two men “had used their 501c3 organizations to put a lot of money against his race,” he described. “It actually, coincidentally, affected the churches.”

According to several men who helped Johnson write the amendment, “the church wasn’t the target,” he explained. “Now, there are actually 29 different categories of 501c3. Only three of them are barred from engaging in politics—and one of those three happens to be the church.”

Defying the Johnson Amendment

The unconstitutionality of the Johnson Amendment has caused some churches to purposefully and openly violate the amendment in hopes of prompting a legal challenge.

“We have given them the permission to bar or ban us,” Hibbs clarified. “The Johnson amendment is absolutely unconstitutional. It’s a pure violation of the first amendment.”

“We send politically incorrect sermons to the IRS and the Department of Justice to provoke a lawsuit,” Pastor Hibbs, who has endorsed several candidates for the upcoming election, stated.

In 2008, Alliance defending Freedom (ADF) launched the Pulpit Initiative “intended to restore a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing any government censorship or control.”

“Pastors have the right to proclaim biblical truth from their pulpits without having to worry about the government looking over their shoulder and threatening their churches with revocation of tax-exempt status if they say something the IRS doesn’t like,” the legal group wrote.

On ADF’s Pulpit Initiative Sundays, participating pastors have “preached sermons that addressed the candidates running for office in light of Scripture, made specific recommendations as to whether a particular candidate was worthy of a Christian’s vote, and then sent recordings of their sermons to the IRS for review.”

The IRS, however, has refused to take action against the Pastor’s open defiance of the amendment. 

“They won’t pick it up because it’ll go straight to the Supreme Court,” Hibbs insisted. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get to the Supreme Court so we can get the Johnson amendment destroyed because it can’t hold an ounce of water.”

“The first amendment explicitly says the government will not tell the pulpits what to do,” O’Neil added. “That is what guarantees that the government doesn’t establish a state religion and force everybody to follow it.”

Hibbs recalled a recent interview he had with the Associated Press, “The first thing she brought up is, ‘pastor, rumor has it that you don’t obey the Johnson amendment?’ And I said, ‘absolutely not. We’re trying to take her to the Supreme court.'” 

 What Is Legal & Illegal From The Pulpit?

Hibbs highlighted that many pastors have misconceptions about what is legal and illegal under the vague Johnson Amendment.

“The part that I’m concerned about is pastors. They should be able to say, this is the gospel, teach a biblically-based message, lead 50-150 people to Christ every week, and at the same time have voter registration in their church and encourage people to know what the issues are and what candidates are Pro-life,” he expressed. “You know, people think it’s against the law. You can inform your congregation of what candidates are pro-border strength, pro-life, pro-constitution, pro-second amendment, and pro-first amendment. You can do that. You can do that legally and a lot of other things.”

The Family Research Council similarly stressed that the “current IRS guidance describing in detail which activities are prohibited and which are not is extremely vague and hard to understand.”

“When it is difficult to know if one’s comments will draw the government’s scrutiny, one tends to want to stay away from that line,” they lamented. “As a consequence of its vagueness, and from the term ‘political’ bleeding over from candidates to issues, many pastors may mistakenly believe the law prevents any discussion of political matters altogether. Most of these want to be good citizens and obey the authorities. They self-censor due to their incorrect apprehension of the IRS’s unnecessarily vague guidance.”

Self-Censoring Pulpits & Ill-Equipped Christians 

During the interview, O’Neil insisted that churches often use the Johnson Amendment as an excuse for their silence.

“I still get people coming up to me saying, well, you know, the church is a 501c3, and you shouldn’t be involved in this and that. That is absolute garbage,” he argued.

If the amendment were not in place, many pastors “would just find something else to hide behind,” Hibbs noted.

But “the scriptures don’t run away from what we call politics,” the Calvary Chapel pastor added. “Every person I read about, every prophet, every situation of the Book of Acts—everything that they’re telling me is something that is happening to them in the moment. They’re addressing emperors. They’re addressing governors. They’re addressing leaders from Pontius Pilot to Nero.”

Sadly, As Christians are being attacked in today’s culture war waged by the left, O’Neil explained, they “don’t know how to give an appropriate Biblical response because they’re not in the Word and they’re not being taught by their pastors.”

“I turn back to the pastors and say, why don’t they know, what are you teaching them? They’re not equipped to deal with relevant issues of the day,” he charged.

“How about we be Bereans, we study to show ourselves approved, and we look through everything carefully,” he urged, referencing Acts 17:10-11. “That whole concept in the church is gone for the most part, and we’re paying the price for it culturally because the left, you got to give it to them, they’re fully dedicated to their ideology.”

“What the left would often want you to believe is a political issue is not. It’s a moral issue,” O’Neil responded. “They’ve taken what used to be within the purview of the church, all throughout society and turned it into politics… [these] are moral issues, and the church should stand up for what’s right.”

“It’s a hard fight, and people need to realize that apathy’s not gonna cut it,” he said. “There’s a violent rhetoric against truth. And Christians have to be the light-bearers of truth. If we don’t preserve truth, no one else will, and that has to get into politics.”

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As the United States is engulfed in a mid-term election year, Jack Hibbs, Senior Pastor and Founder of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, and congressional candidate for California’s 49th district, Josiah O’Neil, teamed up to urge pastors to break their silence on politics from the pulpit. 

In a powerful interview, Hibbs and O’Neil called on the pulpits to “wake up and get engaged” by Biblically addressing both candidates and cultural issues within their churches.

“People are looking for leadership and inspiration, and frankly, it shouldn’t come from a politician; it should come from the pulpits,” O’Neil underscored.

Unfortunately, self-censoring pulpits have left many Christians ill-equipped, Hibbs and O’Neil asserted. Many Pastors have used the Johnson Amendment as a cover to justify their refusal to Biblically inform congregants about political issues.

The Johnson amendment, they underscore, not only flies in the face of the first amendment but is shrouded with misconceptions that have driven numerous preachers to remain silent.

Despite its heavy emphasis on targetting churches today, O’Neil explained that the Johnson Amendment’s initial focus was not the pulpits.

In 1954 then-senator Lyndon B Johnson sought to amend the tax code after two men “had used their 501c3 organizations to put a lot of money against his race,” he described. “It actually, coincidentally, affected the churches.”

According to several men who helped Johnson write the amendment, “the church wasn’t the target,” he explained. “Now, there are actually 29 different categories of 501c3. Only three of them are barred from engaging in politics—and one of those three happens to be the church.”

Defying the Johnson Amendment

The unconstitutionality of the Johnson Amendment has caused some churches to purposefully and openly violate the amendment in hopes of prompting a legal challenge.

“We have given them the permission to bar or ban us,” Hibbs clarified. “The Johnson amendment is absolutely unconstitutional. It’s a pure violation of the first amendment.”

“We send politically incorrect sermons to the IRS and the Department of Justice to provoke a lawsuit,” Pastor Hibbs, who has endorsed several candidates for the upcoming election, stated.

In 2008, Alliance defending Freedom (ADF) launched the Pulpit Initiative “intended to restore a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing any government censorship or control.”

“Pastors have the right to proclaim biblical truth from their pulpits without having to worry about the government looking over their shoulder and threatening their churches with revocation of tax-exempt status if they say something the IRS doesn’t like,” the legal group wrote.

On ADF’s Pulpit Initiative Sundays, participating pastors have “preached sermons that addressed the candidates running for office in light of Scripture, made specific recommendations as to whether a particular candidate was worthy of a Christian’s vote, and then sent recordings of their sermons to the IRS for review.”

The IRS, however, has refused to take action against the Pastor’s open defiance of the amendment. 

“They won’t pick it up because it’ll go straight to the Supreme