Atheist Group Pushing IRS to Edit Sermons

The atheistic group “Freedom from Religion Foundation” has recently filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, asking a Wisconsin federal court to order the IRS to enforce the 1954 Johnson Amendment. Named for then-Senator turned vice President and President, Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who introduced it in a preliminary draft of the law in July 1954, the amendment is a provision of the U.S. tax code that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. The IRS has always threatened 501 (c)(3) organizations with having their tax-exempt status revoked if they openly endorse or oppose political canidates. Churches and most Christian schools are typically categorized as 501(c)(3) organizations thereby limiting the direct commentary they can publicly provide on political issues. This has long been a troubling issue as churches and Christian schools are in existence to help shape the culture toward a biblical Christian worldview. In view of this, President Trump, who campaigned on a platform of repealing the Johnson Amendment, issued an Executive Order in May, stating the IRS should not enforce the regulations of the controversial amendment.

Concerns for Local Churches

This Executive Order motivated the Freedom from Religion group to file its lawsuit and to publicly encourage the IRS to begin enforcing the amendment, including having IRS agents edit church sermons to ensure adherence to the amendment. In response, a group of Christian leaders, represented by the non-profit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argued to the court that the government should not be allowed to edit sermons. Doing so would stand in stark contrast to the idea of religious freedom that this country was founded upon! The Becket Fund further asked the Court to reject Freedom from Religion's lawsuit as an obvious violation of the separation of church and state, writing, “There is a reason that the IRS has never actually enforced its regulations against internal church speech: because it knows it won't hold up against a First Amendment defense.” The argument continued to note that, “Even in the context of public governmental religious speech, courts have been clear that '(g)overnment may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech.' Town of Greece, 134 S. Ct. at 1822 (upholding legislative prayer). That is even more true for the internal church teachings at issue here.” Once given the foothold of actual IRS enforcement, the Johnson act would also be a danger for every other religion – if applied consistently. However, one of the dangers of the IRS enforcement called for by the Freedom from Religion group is that it is intended to be selectively targeted against conservative Christians.

Relevant Bible Passages

Such persecution of Christian ideas and speech should not surprise us. As we often remind you, the Bible teaches that persecution of Christians will only increase as the last days draws closer. Matthew 10:22 clearly teaches that Christians will be persecuted and “shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (KJV).  This persecution not only manifest itself in obvious means of physical persecution, but also in the subtly of restriction of speech. However, we must remain in prayer that God will work in this situation as we know the Gospel, and its corresponding Christian worldview, must be preached in all nations (including America), before the end will come (cf. Matthew 24:14). Let us be in prayer over this developing situation.

PRAY: Pray that the pending lawsuit encouraging the IRS to redact Christian sermons would be dismissed. Pray for Christian leaders to have the freedom to speak on issues of public concern without fear of reprisal from the IRS.