Based on the overwhelming response to last week’s column, it is safe to say I struck a nerve. Many of you share my frustration on the inactivity of the church in the culture war and public square; others accused me of misusing Scripture, being in need of Zen therapy and ignorance regarding American history.
So, taking a deep breath. Let me begin by saying battles such as the American Revolution, the fight against slavery, child-labor laws and gambling were all led and fought by clergy from the pulpit. Did you know during the Revolution the black-robed clergy’s prominent role in stirring the colonies to fight earned them the name the “Black Regiment” by the Redcoats?
That said, I’ll admit church leaders today do not have the same freedom of speech from behind the pulpit they once did. Most notably since the mid-’50s, Lyndon B. Johnson (faced with opposition from nonprofit groups) introduced an amendment on the Senate floor to prohibit political activity by tax-exempt organizations, including churches.
The result was that for the first time in American history, political speech from the pulpit was made illegal. The restrictive law is in the form of an IRS code ?501C(3), which reads, in part, that a tax-exempt organization “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate at all in campaign activity for or against political candidates.”
The church and its leaders are free, however, to address the issues that affect our culture and in essence determine a candidate’s platform. Unfortunately, this law has created a “chilling effect” on pulpit-based speakers. Many are intimidated by government reprisal. Many do not fully understand the limits of this legislation.
Additionally, most conservatives recognize there is a distorted use of the Establishment Clause that is successfully used as a billy club by liberals to extinguish all vestiges of Christianity from the public square. This is evidenced by the rampant judicial activism that has removed prayer from school, the Ten Commandments from government buildings and Christian symbols from city seals.
The framers of the Constitution passed the Establishment Clause under the First Amendment. It reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” But prohibiting a government-established church was intended to ensure religious freedom not eliminate the presence, influence and voice of the church from the public square.
The question is “How do we contend for the faith in light of all these restrictions, misinterpretations and influences?” Here are my suggestions:
First, support H.R. 235, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, sponsored by Walter Jones, R-N.C. This bill will reverse LBJ’s ban and return the protection of the First Amendment to America’s churches, synagogues and mosques. So call or write your representatives.
Second, support S. 2082 and H.R. 3799, the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004. If passed, this bill will restrict judicial activism in both federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court by removing from their jurisdiction rulings that involve God or the acknowledgement of God. This law can block action by renegade courts such as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held in 2002 that the Pledge of Allegience was unconstitutional because it contained the words “under God.” So once again, call or write your representatives and senators.
Third, consider the following list of action options offered by one mother of four who wrote in response to last week’s column. “If you are truly strapped for time – begin the fight in a small manner.
- All mothers and fathers have the ability to fight with their pocketbooks.
- If something offends you, SPEAK UP! I took my two youngest to see the “Cat in the Hat” and walked out in 20 minutes due to the vulgarity and sexual innuendo. I politely shared my objection with the management and my money was refunded.
- Compensate for the attack on the public display of Christian symbols by prominently displaying them on your own property. Put a nativity scene in your yard. Buy a Christian flag and fly it on your house. Say grace publicly.
In essence, re-Christianize the atmosphere! None of these suggestions will take time away from your family.”
Fourth, sign up for Center Alerts published by the Center for Reclaiming America. “These alerts are full of important news updates on cultural issues, essential contact information and easy action items for every concerned American.”
And finally, be encouraged, at least a little. I am. Despite church silence and the epidemic of apathy, I never had a greater response to a column than I did last week. It actually made me feel a bit like Horton when he first heard a Who – “we’re here.”