Faith and Politics: Pastors group inspired by patriot preachers of yesteryear
A group called the Patriot Pastors meets regularly in the Oklahoma City area and hopes to spur clergymen across the state to bring biblical patriotism back to the pulpit.
Patriotic preachers of yesteryear provide inspiration for a group of Oklahoma pastors who are urging other clergymen to bring biblical patriotism back to the pulpit.
We believe a pastor should be able to take Scripture and tell their congregation who they should vote for.”
The Rev. Dan Fisher
Members of the group, calling themselves the Patriot Pastors, said they are unafraid of the controversy that often comes when church leaders delve into the political arena.
“A lot of pastors are so afraid of the Johnson Amendment. They're so afraid they're going to lose their tax-exempt status,” said the Rev. James Taylor, pastor of University Christian Church in Norman.
His friend and fellow preacher, the Rev. Dan Fisher, agreed.
“They don't want the controversy — the heat that comes with it,” said Fisher, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon.
The Johnson Amendment was enacted in 1954 when Congress approved an amendment by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, D-Texas, to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity, according to Internal Revenue Service fact sheets and news releases.
The IRS said current law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
Fisher and the Rev. Paul Blair, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, both have challenged the premise of the Johnson Amendment by participating in the Alliance Defense Fund's Pulpit Freedom Initiative. As part of the initiative, both pastors have joined a growing number of preachers nationwide who have preached a sermon urging their congregation to vote for a candidate seeking an elected office.
Fisher said he interprets the Johnson Amendment as part of the tax code and not a law. He said the hope is that the preachers' defiance of the amendment will land the issue in a court of law. If that happens, he predicts it will not hold up.“We believe a pastor should be able to take Scripture and tell their congregation who they should vote for,” Fisher said. “The only way we can get this in court is to disobey it.”
To date, he said, the IRS had done nothing to him or Blair due to their Pulpit Freedom participation. David Stell, IRS spokesman in Oklahoma City, said he is prohibited from talking about specific taxpayers or tax entities.
Aside from Fisher and Taylor, the Patriot Pastors group includes the Rev. Steve Kern, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church, and the Rev. Tom Vineyard, pastor of Windsor Hills Baptist Church, both in Oklahoma City; Blair; the Rev. Mike Smith, recently retired from Community Christian Church in Moore; and the Rev. Bruce Delay, pastor of Heartland Church in Tulsa.
The ministers, who meet each month, said they consider their actions patriotic — an evolution of the activities of a group called the Black-Robed Regiment in colonial America. Fisher, who has produced a DVD about the regiment, said it was made up of 18th-century preachers who supported the American Revolution, wore black robes on Sunday and regularly preached what they called “election sermons” in the land that became America.
“They preached on what the Bible had to say about sound, just government. They were invited to preach in front of state legislatures. They led men into battle and were chaplains who gave spiritual leadership,” Fisher said.
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