Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

October 5th is Pulpit Freedom Sunday: is your church getting involved?

I listened to this podcast from the Alliance Defending Freedom  and this podcast from the Family Research Council on the weekend.  Both of them mentioned that something called Pulpit Freedom Sunday was happening this Sunday.

So I looked it up and found this online:

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an event associated with the Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. Pulpit Freedom Sunday encourages pastors to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to speak truth into every area of life from the pulpit. Alliance Defending Freedom also hopes to eventually go to court to have the Johnson Amendment struck down as unconstitutional for its regulation of sermons, which are protected by the First Amendment.

The web site is here. They are up to 3520 pastors now who are participating. My pastor did not participate last year. He is not very intelligent when it comes to apologetics and policy, so he probably doesn’t know what to say. Or maybe he just afraid, which I can understand more than not knowing what to say.

Not everyone is happy with this. The IRS is investigating churches (not Democrat-favoring churches, of course) for speaking about specific issues.

Here’s an article on that.

Excerpt:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has agreed to investigate the political activity of churches after reaching a settlement with an atheist legal group. But a court has yet to decide whether or not to close the case.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the IRS jointly asked a Wisconsin federal court last week to dismiss a 2012 lawsuit, FFRF v. Koskinen. The FFRF had alleged that the IRS failed to have a policy in place for investigating political activity at tax-exempt churches and religious organizations, nor did the agency enforce its 501(c)(3) codes against electioneering.

Meanwhile, more than 1,600 churches have deliberately broken the existing law since 2008, endorsing political candidates from their pulpits during Pulpit Freedom Sunday events organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The next “showdown” will be October 5.

“This is a victory, and we’re pleased with this development in which the IRS has proved to our satisfaction that it now has in place a protocol to enforce its own anti-electioneering provisions,” said FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in a press release.

However, the case has not yet been closed. Father Patrick Malone of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had been granted permission to interveneon the side of the IRS, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which represents Malone) has asked the court to dismiss the case but “with prejudice.” In other words, Becket argues the FFRF should not be able to sue the IRS again on this particular issue, while the FFRF argues that it should be able to do so.

Regardless of the court’s final decision, the IRS won’t be free to investigate churches until a moratorium related to the agency’s controversial scrutiny of tea party organizations is lifted after a congressional investigation closes.

CT has noted how the six-year run of Pulpit Freedom Sunday has tried to provoke the IRS into (ironically) punishing pastors as a means to reexamine the rights of pastors to promote politicians from the pulpit. The initiative even gained an unexpected allylast year in Sen. Charles Grassley and the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (CAPRO).

Meanwhile, LifeWay Research has found that only 10 percent of Protestant pastors believe pastors should endorse political candidates (while noting that is a different question from should the IRS ban the practice.)

The IRS has not released the language of the settlement, and ADF is concerned about how secretive the church investigations will be—if they indeed happen. ADF has issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in pursuit of the documents surrounding the settlement between the FFRF and the IRS.

“This is one of the major problems with the IRS,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with ADF. “They are secretive, which breeds mistrust and leads to problems in knowing just how they will enforce and interpret the law.”

Becket has also requested information on documents the FFRF and the IRS are not making available, including: “all documents relating to any investigation or determination by a high-ranking IRS official, in writing, of the acts and circumstances, including potential violations of the electioneering restrictions, that led to the high-ranking official to reasonably believe that a church or religious organization may have violated the requirements for tax exemption under 501(c)(3).”

Stanley says ADF’s strategy—helping churches realize how government is censoring what they say—will not change. If the IRS does monitor electioneering more closely, he hopes the issue will end in a lawsuit.

“The Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional,” said Stanley. “If the IRS begins enforcing it again against churches, Alliance Defending Freedom stands ready to defend a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit.”

ADF has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday for six years, with 1,621 church and religious leaders participating in 2012 (2013 dropped to nearly 1,100 participants). But until now, the IRS has all but ignored ADF’s attempts to bring the issue to a head. According to Stanley, the IRS does not want to challenge the Johnson Amendment—which bans tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates—in court.

I think it’s interesting that the FFRF is not so much interested in debating whether atheism is true as they in shutting down theists who seek to live consistently with their beliefs by using the power of big government. I think that’s pretty par for the course though, if you look through 20th century history. That’s what atheist regimes have done, so we should expect individual atheists to do that as well.

I don’t recommend to the atheists at FFRF that they intimidate Christians, though, as Jesus seems to think that limiting the practice and free expression of Christian convictions is a bad idea.

Read Matthew 18:1-7:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,

3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

7 “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

I think that we Christians need to take positions that are in accord with what God’s Word says, and we need to be ready to defend our positions in public using public arguments and public evidence – especially scientific research – that will be persuasive to non-Christians who do not accept the Bible. That’s the only way to stop the cultural decline caused by the secular left.

The best introductory book on the interface between Christianity and politics is “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late“, co-authored by Jay Wesley Richards. The Kindle edition is $9.99. Richards’ Ph.D is from Princeton University.

The best comprehensive book is “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem. The Kindle edition of that one is $4.99. Grudem’s is from Cambridge University. First-rate Christian scholarship on practical Christianity.

And you can listen to Grudem delivering Sunday school training at his church on every single chapter of that book right here. All free, and no ads. Be sure and scroll through all the previous years to get all the topics! Ethics, social policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy and more!

For more information on Pulpit Freedom Sunday, check out this web site.

If you want to hear about things like this, then subscribe to the FRC podcasts and the ADF podcast.

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Christian valedictorian tears up censor-approved speech and recites the Lord’s Prayer

From WXII 12 local news, a story from South Carolina.

Full text:

A school district under pressure to keep prayer out of meetings and gatherings got an unexpected delivery from one high school valedictorian

Saturday, at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, Liberty High Valedictorian Roy Costner IV took his speech to the podium, and in front of the crowd, tore it up.

John Eby, Pickens County School District spokesman, said, “They write their speeches. They send them to someone on staff to have them approved.”

But Costner clearly had something else in mind.

After speaking for a few minutes, he thanked his parents for leading him to the Lord at a young age, and then he said, “I think most of you will understand when I say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…” as he began to recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Much of the crowd broke into tentative applause that then grew into cheers that nearly drown out Costner’s voice as he continued the prayer.

Brian Hoover, who is from Liberty and attended the graduation, said, “You couldn’t even hear him doing the prayer anymore because everybody was clapping and cheering.”

Costner finished, pointing his finger in the air for emphasis, saying, “For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen,” followed by more cheers and applause.

Hoover said, “From the ACLU sending FOIA requests to every district in the state this year after the Chesterfield County case, then the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent us a complaint about religion at board meetings and some other issues as well. That is why the reaction to the prayer at graduation was loud.”

The district says there will be no repercussions because of the prayer.

Costner was out of town on Monday, but he said he added the prayer to the speech because God is the biggest part of his life.

According to a school publication, “Costner plans to head to Clemson University in the fall to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. He said he hopes to work as a computer programmer overseas, but has dreams of saving up enough to come back and start a chain of restaurants in the U.S. He said computer programming was an interest he picked up outside of school as he developed a local news website, “Liberty Speaks.”

In the publication Costner is quoted as saying: “I have big ideas for mobile applications, and even for starting a new social network, but I don’t have the knowledge to pull it off yet.”

It warms my heart to see a good, brave Christian man take up computer science, where he should be able to find work in spite of the politically correct censors he might find on campus.

Here’s the verse that should scare anyone about what exactly it is that Jesus expects from his followers:

Matthew 10:32-39:

32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,

33 butwhoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 

35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 

36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 

38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 

39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

That’s why he did what he did. He had to do it to honor God instead of pleasing godless men.

In other news, the ACLU, which opposes free speech that secular leftists find offensive, is also in favor of sex-selection abortions and race-selection abortions. I wonder which is more offensive? Free speech or killing a baby because it is the wrong sex or the wrong race? That’s what the ACLU stands for: sexism and racism and fascism.

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Is it good enough to quote the Bible when discussing public policy issues?

In a recent post, I stated my view that holding up signs with Bible verses on street corners was a foolish way to argue against homosexuality and legalizing same-sex marriage.

Marshal Art wrote this in response:

It might be much better to have scholarly spokesmen, but can we wait about until they show up, are sought out by the media and left-wing enablers or can command the same level of attention as the activists? I don’t think so. The fact is that we need everyone who opposes the sanctioning of this attraction as normal and the attendant behavior as morally benign to speak out often and loudly. The problem with the goofs, like Fred Phelps for example, is that they are among the few who are vocal about their position, without more rational people risking blowback by being outspoken opponents themselves.

And then Lindsay Harold replied to me, and this is the one you need to read closely:

Exactly. People who make a public case against same-sex marriage (or abortion, etc.) solely on religious grounds are basically painting a big target on everyone who holds the same position. They make it easy for people to ridicule them and ignore the facts by saying that the only opposition to these things is religious in nature – that conservatives just want to “force their religion” on others. That’s a difficult charge to overcome precisely because, in many cases, there is a lot of truth to it. Too many people only want to stop same-sex marriage and abortion because they believe they are wrong according to the Bible.

The problem is, that’s not sufficient reason to make something illegal. There are plenty of things that are wrong (coveting, lust, not remembering the Sabbath, etc) that are not and should not be illegal. Thus, if you are going to make a case for why something should or should not be legal, you must have more than religious reasons. Making only a religious case in such a situation is indeed attempting to force religion on others. And it hampers the real work of using evidence and logic to make the proper legal case by painting all the others defending marriage or fighting abortion with the label of “religious fanatic.”

Probably the hardest part of defending traditional marriage or arguing against abortion is convincing the other side to listen to the facts and logic rather than dismissing you as religiously-motivated. The reason for this is that there are too many well-intentioned, but ignorant and misguided, people out there making things harder for their own side with their faulty arguments.

She actually wrote a similar post on her blog, “Lindsay’s Logic”, but on the abortion issue on her blog recently, and here’s a snippet:

You see, laws in this country are not based on religion. In fact, our Founding Fathers specifically planned to create a nation where religious freedom was protected. In order to do that, one must have a secular country based on logical principles, not a theocracy. History has shown that government based upon religion inevitably persecutes those who disagree with the religion in power. Many, if not most, of those who came to America and founded this nation came to escape religious persecution. They knew firsthand the dangers of living in a church state. They wanted to ensure freedom for all, so they set up a secular government and laid out basic principles to limit the government’s power and prevent oppression of the people. Their principles were based on the concept of inalienable rights – rights that are innate in every human being and which government cannot grant or take away. These rights include the right to life, liberty, ownership of property, religion, a fair trial, and many others – all developed from basic logical principles. And, in this country, laws are to be made by the people, but only in accordance with these principles so that no one’s rights will be violated.
Of course, these logical principles are quite consistent with a Biblical worldview – and not by accident. The concept of inalienable rights, for example, comes from the view that mankind is the product of a Creator who has endowed them with these rights. Religious freedom is also consistent with the Bible. After all, even God Himself does not force Himself upon anyone, but gives all people the free choice to choose Him or not. But one cannot enforce every doctrine from the Bible in a secular society. There are things that are wrong, according to the Bible, which cannot be made law. How would one, for example, make lust or coveting illegal? And while the Bible commands us to remember the Sabbath day, one cannot enforce this on all people within a society without violating their freedom of religion. Thus, not everything that is wrong should be illegal.

It looks to me like Lindsay’s logic is pretty sound. My own view is that I get my moral views from the Bible, and then when talking about those views with people in the the public square, I use secular arguments (unless they happen to be evangelical Protestants like me – but then they probably would not need convincing?!)

What do you think? Is Marshal Art right or is Lindsay right? Although both of them are good people and mean well, which approach do you think will actually solve the problem?

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When pastors get it right: Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012

My favorite pastor Wayne Grudem, the best pastor on the face of the planet, explains why he participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012. (H/T Jeremy)

Excerpt:

This Sunday I have agreed to join nearly 1,500 pastors nationwide and participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom. In my sermon, I plan to recommend that people vote for one presidential candidate and one political party that I will name. We will then all send our sermons to the IRS.

This action is in violation of the 1954 “Johnson Amendment” to the Internal Revenue Code, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations like churches from endorsing any candidate by name. But in our nation, a higher law than the IRS code is the Constitution, which forbids laws “abridging freedom of speech” or “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion (First Amendment).

I fully understand that many pastors might never want to endorse a candidate from the pulpit (I have never done so before and I might never do so again). But that should be the decision of the pastors and their churches, just as it was in 1860 when many pastors (rightly) decided they had to tell citizens to vote for Abraham Lincoln in order to end the horrible evil of slavery. When the government censors what pastors can preach, I think it is an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

[...]I have compiled a list of 24 differences between the two parties on issues with a moral component. Here are some of them where the parties differ:

The rule of law (vs. judges who change the original meaning of the Constitution), freedom of religion in public expression (vs. freedom of worship in private), protection of life (vs. glorying in unrestricted abortion rights), the preservation of marriage (vs. promoting same-sex relationships as “marriage”), the limitation of federal power (vs. an unconstrained federal government), parental choice in education for children of all income levels and all races (vs. protecting a government-regulated monopoly on schools), turning back government overspending and avoiding debt that we cannot repay (vs. reckless spending that threatens to bankrupt our children and our nation), caring for the poor by reducing taxes to leave more money in the job-creating private sector (vs. ever-increasing taxes that drain money from job-creating businesses), a strong military to protect us and the many small democracies that look to us for protection (vs. damaging defense cutbacks that leave smaller nations, the world’s sea lanes, and our own nation increasingly vulnerable), and a commitment to stand by Israel (vs. snubbing its leaders and demanding that it make ever-greater concessions).

You can read 5 reasons why pastors ought to have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012 here.

Here’s one of their reasons:

1.  The issues the country is facing are biblical issues. Pastors, more than many others, are uniquely suited to speak to the issues confronting the country in this election season.  Issues such as life, marriage, the family, the economy, the poor, and many others are addressed specifically in scripture.  The effect of the Johnson Amendment has been to make these biblical issues “political,” as if slapping a “political” label on an issue somehow removes it from the purview of scripture.  For example, a pastor preaching a sermon thirty years ago that abortion is wrong was just being biblical. But that same sermon today is labeled as political and, as a result, the pastor is sidelined into silence.  It’s not that the church is somehow becoming “political.”  It’s that politics is invading the realm of the church.

We need more pastors to connect what the Bible says to policy and events in the real world. We need to take positions that are in accord with what God’s Word says, and we need to be ready to defend our positions in public using public arguments and public evidence – especially scientific research – that will be persuasive to non-Christians who do not accept the Bible. That’s the only way to stop the cultural decline caused by the secular left.

The best introductory book on the interface between Christianity and politics is “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late“, co-authored by Jay Wesley Richards. The Kindle edition is $9.99. Richards’ Ph.D is from Princeton University.

The best comprehensive book is “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem. The Kindle edition of that one is $4.99. Grudem’s is from Cambridge University. First-rate Christian scholarship on practical Christianity.

And you can listen to Grudem delivering Sunday school training at his church on every single chapter of that book right here. All free, and no ads. Be sure and scroll through all the previous years to get all the topics! Ethics, social policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy and more!

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What if Christians were treated like Muslims and vice versa?

ECM found this neat article in Human Events, a conservative news magazine.

Excerpt:

If Christians were treated like Muslims, conspicuous Christianity would be celebrated by our elites as a sign of our diversity and open-mindedness, not disparaged as an embarrassment, a nuisance and a breach of the law.

If Christianity were treated like Islam, our students would be taught a white-washed version of Christian history, with the troubling bits miscast or omitted from textbooks and lesson plans.

If Christianity were treated like Islam, if an evangelical Christian committed an evil act in the name of his faith, he would be portrayed in the media as a deviation from, not a personification of, the Gospel message. Meanwhile, our political and media elites would hasten to assure the public that evangelical Christianity is a religion of peace and that the vast majority of evangelical Christians do not support terrorism.

[...]If Christianity were treated like Islam, Christmas and Easter would be publicly celebrated for what they are — the signature events of Christianity, marking the birth and the death and Resurrection of Christ — not stripped of all their theological meaning and transformed into secular holidays devoted to crass consumerism.

If Christians were treated like Muslims, NASA would be tasked with reaching out to Christians and recognizing their faith’s profound achievements and contributions to science, math and engineering, instead of being told to make Muslims feel good about their rather meager scientific accomplishments.

[...]If Christians were treated like Muslims in America, amusement parks would celebrate “Christian Family Day,” (Six Flags recently celebrated “Muslim Family Day”), and Christians would be asked to embrace, not set aside, their religious convictions at the door when they entered the public square. Meanwhile, Muslim imams, not Christian pastors, would fear hate crimes lawsuits for preaching orthodox views of sexuality and sin.

This is a pretty clever article, and I wish I had written it.

Non-Christian sometimes ask me whether I believe in Hell and whether I think that they are going there. And the answer is YES, I do believe in Hell, and YES, they are going there. And one of the reasons why they are going there to roast for an eternity (oh yes, I have the traditional view of Hell) is because of the way that people treat Christians in the here and now. I am talking about in the university, in the the news media, and in Hollywood. Christians always seem to be the only group that you can make feel bad for what they believe. I think that this factor will play a significant part in the degree of punishment that non-Christians get in the afterlife. (And that doesn’t mean that I’m going to treat them people badly because my goal is to persuade people and that means being nice to them).

Here’s a tip for non-Christians who read my blog. You can fight with Christians all you like about whether Christianity is true, and no harm done. But whatever you do, do not be found on that day guilty of making us feel bad about our faith. Do not make it harder for us to be who we are. Do not be one of the people who pressures us to keep silent about what we believe. I understand that non-Christians do not like the things we do, like chastity and sobriety and being pro-life and pro-marriage. Those are good things that prevent harm and evil, and they should not be opposed.

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