Posted by: smstrouse | May 5, 2017

Opposing #45’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty

I wrote this blog post 5 years ago in response to “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” That scheme was dumb enough, but now it’s back in the form of an executive order. I opposed it then and I still oppose it now.

“Pulpit Freedom” Is Redundant, People

It makes me want to scream!  ‘Pulpit Freedom’ – really?!  As Dorothy Parker would say, “What fresh hell is this?”

The Alliance Defending Freedom has declared October 7th to be ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday.’  Their web site declares: “The future of religious freedom depends on a free pulpit to communicate fundamental, biblical principles to congregations across America.”  Those ‘biblical principles’ include ‘the sanctity of life, and marriage and family,’ so you see where they’re coming from.

The whole scheme was actually devised to challenge the IRS’  prohibition of churches making political endorsements, claiming that it violates the First Amendment.  They’re hoping that by  making this so-called stand on the 7th, recording their sermons and sending them to the IRS, the IRS will remove their tax exempt status.  This will then allow them to challenge the law in court. And so, as a pastor, I am invited to “join a growing movement of bold pastors preaching biblical Truth about candidates and elections from their pulpits on October 7, 2012.”

One blogger’s response to this news was: “Bring it on. Every time one of these fundie grifters pulls a stunt like this, a new atheist gets his wings.”  As much as I cringe when I read responses like this, I totally get it.  If this is the defining picture of Christianity, let me out as well.

But it’s not!  As a pastor, I already have ‘pulpit freedom.’  That freedom is the gospel. That freedom is solid and current biblical scholarship.  That freedom is preaching an interpretation of that scholarship for life in the 21st century.  That freedom is knowing that the people who hear and read my words have the ability to take in the gospel and apply it to their own lives, including making decisions about who they will vote for.  I do not need to hold their hands as they go into the voting booth.

And I do not need to worry about my ‘pulpit freedom; I already have it.  The term is redundant.  This claim that “the future of religious freedom depends on a free pulpit to communicate fundamental, biblical principles to congregations across America” is simply a scam. They want to give their right-wing religion and their right-wing politics  more power. In the process, they just may force the hand of the IRS and cause all churches to pay the price of their folly.  There are many people who would rejoice at the news of churches losing tax exempt status. But if, as government-funded social programs are being cut, and churches are expected to pick up the slack, then they had better recognize that and continue to give us a break!

So – on October 7th, I will be exercising my freedom and preaching on the day we honor St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment, known for his compassion for the poor and vulnerable.  That’s the gospel I know; that’s the freedom I know. And even though I believe that the gospel St. Francis lived would have us lean toward one presidential candidate over another, I will leave that decision up to each individual’s conscience.

That is freedom.

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